bookish: On returning to favourite books

I returned from my recent Parisian holiday with a serious craving to reread The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. The Boy and I explored the Latin Quarter and Monparnasse, drank wine and people-watched at cafes on Boulevard St. Germain and had dinner in a tiny bistro up on the hill of Monmarte, all settings I recognised from reading this book.


When I read it for the first time many years ago I instantly fell in love with it; I adored the characters and the story and, of course, Maugham’s writing. I read it that one time and included it in my list of all time favourite books but I never went back to it. Last week I found myself hesitating. What if I didn’t like it this time around? What if all this time I’ve been thinking that The Razor’s Edge is one of my most favourite books but instead I only thought it was ok now? What if I was wrong to tell The Boy that if he didn’t read it and love it we couldn’t be together? (I was only half serious.) What if it just resonated with me all those years ago but not anymore? I am definitely a different person to what I was back then. Wouldn’t it be a significant kind of pain to fall out of love with a book, perhaps almost like the heartbreak of losing a friend? I was tempted to pick something else to read and not challenge the impression this book left on me the first time. Is that crazy?

In the end, I decided to go for it. I’m almost at the end now and I’m thrilled to see that I’m as infatuated with this book as ever; in fact, I am really enjoying that I can recognise some of the places mentioned in London and Paris. It’s certainly a different experience rereading it now, but I can say for sure that it’s still a brilliant book that I will probably always love.

This experience got me thinking… I have all these books that I consider favourites but I’ve only ever gone back to few of them. I read Pride and Prejudice a couple of times and it didn’t disappoint, and a few years ago I had a tradition of rereading the Harry Potter books every summer. But there are many that I read once, loved and then never read again. I’m very tempted to return and read them again to see if they are still special to me. I mean, I watch my favourite movies all the time, to the point where I can recite them, so why not go back to my favourite books? Of course, this would be a long-term project but I’m very curious to see the results.

I’d love to know what your thoughts are on rereading your favourite books. I know that most of us feel like there are so many books and so little time so perhaps don’t return to books often but, do you think it’s important? Have you ever been disappointed by a book upon reading it a second time? What are the books you always go back to?

P.S. Pictured above is a row of gorgeous apartments on Île de la Cité. I promise I will post more pictures from Paris soon. In the meantime, if you want to, you can have a look at the ones I shared on Instagram.


4 thoughts on “bookish: On returning to favourite books

  1. Charlie says:

    I was thinking just yesterday about how relevant our saying books are favourites is, if we only read them once. The word “favourite” added with “read once” doesn’t make sense. But there are so many other books it’s hard to get round to rereading. When I have reread I’ve only been disappointed by childhood favourites, which is understandable. But then even there there have only been a few I didn’t like, most I loved more as an adult, if anything.

    You looked at the idea of fear – that’s definitely a reason I take time before rereading, because you do worry if you won’t like it, and I find I even worry how I’d be able to mention it in future to those I’ve gushed about it to.

    • bookworm says:

      You are exactly right – it’s strange that we can consider a book a favourite when we only have read it once. It’s certainly not the case with my favourite clothes, food, songs or movies. But of course it takes time to read a book and there’s always a new addition to our to-be-read lists which is why it’s not so easy to reread a book.

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