Book Features · books

Can you ever recapture the feeling of reading a book for the first time?

There’s nothing quite like reading a book for the first time and realising it’s going to be a 5 star read.

That feeling of being under a book’s spell, loving every chapter and seeing the plot, writing style, and character development all come together is a special kind of magic.

One that can be hard to replicate when you reread a book. Especially if you remember all the details and know what’s going to happen.

But is it impossible to recapture the feeling of reading a book for the first time?

My instinct says yes.

You’re never going to get the same ‘brand new’ feeling on a second or third read and you’re never fully going to have no idea what’s coming next.

You might not remember the plot in detail, but even if you read the book a long time ago you’ll likely remember character names and key moments.

Book cover for Six of Crows

But here’s why I think my instinct is wrong.

I reread Six of Crows this year for the first time since I read it originally in 2016.

And it felt like I was reading it for the first time again.

There were a few reasons for this.

Length of time elapsed

Because I hadn’t read the book in four years, I actually remembered very little of the plot. In fact, there were scenes that my brain had decided to entirely rinse from my memory.

So it genuinely felt like I was reading those chapters for the first time, which contributed to the overall first-time feeling.

Memory of the story

This goes hand-in-hand with time elapsed, but I think that if you remember a book really well, you’re less likely to recapture that ‘first time magic’ during a reread.

If you read the book six years ago but still remember most of it clearly (someone needs to teach me how to do this) then of course it’s not going to feel like a brand new book.

Loki reading GIF

But if you read it six years ago and remember virtually nothing then it’s going to feel more brand new. If I had read Six of Crows for the first time last year and then reread it now, I don’t think I’d have found that first time feeling at all.

Getting lost in the story

This is just a theory, but I think that if you let yourself get pulled into the story and don’t concentrate on the fact that it’s a reread then the first-time feeling comes more naturally. Whereas if you focus on the idea that ‘this is a reread’, you’re less likely to be able to unlock the feeling.

You’re probably thinking ‘Kate, this sounds like utter BS’, and maybe it is. But it also kind of? worked? for me?

When I started my reread of Six of Crows, all I kept thinking was ‘this is my FIRST EVER reread of one of my favourite books, what a moment’.

Dr Who Amazed GIF

But once I got further into the story and allowed myself to get lost in the plot, the knowledge that this was a reread drifted to the back of my mind and it start to feel more like I was reading a new book.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is MANIFEST THAT FIRST-TIME FEELING, BABY.

How much you like the book

Again, this links to the point above because, often, the more you love a story, the easier it is to get lost in it. And the more you get lost in it, the more likely it is to feel like a first-time read.

I absolutely love Six of Crows, so it was very easy for me to immerse myself in the story.

But this logic is inherently flawed because the more you love a book, the more you probably want to reread it. And if you’ve reread it three times in the last three years, then your next reread is probably not going to feel like a first time read at all.

Plus, for a lot of people, the more you reread, the more you remember, which also diminishes the first-time feeling.

So…I basically just refuted my own point.

Judgejudy Facepalm GIF

But, that’s because I’m not arguing ‘yes, you definitively can recapture the first-time read feeling’.

This post is more about weighing up both sides. And I think that even if you can create the right conditions, the stars align, and an effigy of your favourite author appears to bless your book, sometimes it just might not happen.

When I reread SOC, it felt like I was reading it for the first time again for perhaps 80% of the book, but not 100%. There were scenes I remembered so clearly that that feeling got obliterated.

So I’d say that it’s possible to recapture that first-time read feeling under certain, often unique, conditions.

It’s perhaps unlikely, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Writing this post has also reminded me that I should treasure my first-time reads when I’m enjoying a book.

Sometimes I race through a novel, because I’m enjoying it, but I’m also eager to pick up my next book. I think I should try to savour books I enjoy more because I’ll never physically read them for the first time again.

But perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope. Perhaps there’s a small chance I might be able to recapture that feeling in the future.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I’d love to know what you think about this discussion? Is it truly possible to recapture the first-time read feeling?

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11 thoughts on “Can you ever recapture the feeling of reading a book for the first time?

  1. This was a really interesting discussion! I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately since I’ve started doing more rereads than in previous years. I think the thing that most effects that “reading it for the first time” feeling for me is my ability to get lost in the story for a second time. Sometimes when I reread, I do get lost in the story again, but other times, like if I am rereading just to jog my memory before a sequel is released, I find myself just wishing the story would go faster so I could be done with it. So I guess for me it basically depends on why I’m rereading 🙂

  2. Because I have a tendency to forget things about what I read, I definitely find that I can reread and still get most of the full experience because of that. I also think it’s partly due to not being able to properly absorb every tiny bit of a book, so there’s always something new to notice!

  3. This is a really interesting post to consider! In the beginning of quarantine I reread a bunch of old series that I hadn’t read in a while so I would say that even though it’s not possible to get the first-time feeling back, there’s really a lot that is added upon a reread. Like I’ve reread the Percy Jackson series at least 5 times and I still love it. When I was young, I reread the Harry Potter series about 15 times (but haven’t touched it in years now whoops). Rereading the Septimus Heap series was, to me, like reading it all over again anew because I had forgotten so many things. I also recently reread The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic in order to prep for the last book’s release, and I really found myself enjoying the book more than I had the first time. I guess what I’m saying is that for me, I always read a book really fast the first time; when I reread it, I notice so many more things that it feels like a brand new experience. I don’t think you can really get back that first-time feeling, though.

  4. the fact that I could never get that first-time-feeling when re-reading The Starless Sea and Addie LaRue is the number one cause of my mental health being shit. jokes, but I’m willing to read them again in 4 years and hopefully it’ll work? kind of? a little bit?

  5. Ooh I kinda agree with you because it does happen to me sometimes that I reread a book and I’ve forgotten literally everything so it feels like I’m reading it for the first time. Like I first read Simon when it came out, before the fandom existed and then 2 years later I found the fandom on twitter and went in for a re-read and for the love of my life I couldn’t remember who Blue was XD

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