Sunday Coffee – First Impressions

IMG_7979(My pjs and mustache kinda match this morning…)

It has been a really busy week, and a hard one, fraught with insomnia and so many school functions to attend that I had little time to recover. In my down moments – what few they were – I didn’t have a lot of mental energy to put into other projects, so I spend that time working on the blog this week. I had an interesting experience doing so.

Back in 2010, I read and reviewed Devilish by Maureen Johnson. I’ve read seven novels by Johnson since discovering her in 2009, and Devilish ranks up among my favorites, perhaps my very favorite. It’s the only one I own, after seeing it recently at a library book sale and snatching it up immediately. My review from 2010, however, is very unsure. I read back through it as I transferred it from my private book journal to this blog, and the whole time, I kept wondering what the heck I’d been thinking. This book is so much fun! Did that just not come out in my review?

Then I got to the end, where I’d tacked on a note when I created my private book journal in spring 2012, almost two years after reading Devilish. “Note: After time passed, this came to be one of my favorite Maureen Johnson books, the one that stuck around most in my memory.” Okay. So I wasn’t crazy. I simply hadn’t liked the book as much when I first read it as I do now.

This isn’t terribly uncommon, I don’t think. (Not specifically with this book, but books in general.) I remember being kinda meh about Never Let Me Go when I first read it, but within six months, it grew into an all-time favorite that I still thought about all the time. There’s the opposite, too, where a book starts as something you enjoy but over time either becomes distasteful or fades away in your mind. I’ve had quite a few reviews I’ve read over as I transfer them, praising a book I either barely remember or remember negatively. Other than a periodic note when my feelings have drastically changed (both Devilish and Never Let Me Go have them, added years ago, not now), I’ve forced myself not to modify my original reviews in any way. (Well, other than correcting obvious typos. Because there’s that.)

Reviews are my first impressions of a book. Reviews and “ratings” (which is an entirely different topic for a different Sunday Coffee) can only say so much, unless added to or changed over time, and I hesitate to make those changes. I like having a book journal to record those first impressions, so that I don’t forget a book or the initial experience of reading it. Sometimes, though, I wish to go back and revisit a book, and then update my review, or at least add on “revisited” thoughts. (I actually have done this a couple times over the years, like with We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.)

You’d think it would be simple: like a book, don’t like a book. But it’s not. It speaks to how powerful a book can be, how strongly it can affect someone, when impressions and feelings over time can be altered, even without ever revisiting said book.

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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9 Responses to Sunday Coffee – First Impressions

  1. Jeanne says:

    This is a good point, about ratings–I have said for years that I don’t like them, and don’t look at them when others use them. Adding a note later isn’t a bad idea, and doing a special post now and then for re-reading isn’t a bad idea either. In the end, though, I let my initial impressions stand, because I don’t want to be too much like W. H. Auden, who revised his poems continually until it’s hard to say which is the “best” version of some of his best works.

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    • Amanda says:

      I completely agree. I really like rereading books, especially books that I loved either on first read, or over time, so revisiting feels natural to me. 🙂 Ratings, on the other hand, I didn’t have a problem with in the beginning, but now feel very different. Again, later topic. 😀

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  2. Word Lily says:

    I regularly experience this, too. Even in the short term, writing a review immediately after finishing vs. a few days later can make a big difference.

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    • Amanda says:

      Or writing a review of a book that took a day to read, versus an audiobook you listened to over a month! Definitely a difference, and I can see the difference in the reviews I wrote immediately vs after a time, as well!

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  3. Megan says:

    This happens to me all the time, and sometimes it makes me glad that I often don’t get to writing the review immediately after finishing the book. I’ve definitely had a few books that I initially felt really “meh” about that when I’ve revisited them to write the review, I discovered that they’d really stuck with me and given me a lot to think about (and write about!). On the other hand, there are definitely some books that I’ve definitely “oversold” when relying on that initial impression that went on to quickly fade from memory or would lose a star on further reflection (if I was the sort was prone to giving star ratings, which I avoid on my blog but do on Goodreads and LibraryThing).

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  4. I didn’t even know you were writing over here again! *headpalm*

    As far as your question, I just realize that those were my impressions at the time, based on where I was in life and my experiences thus far. If I re-read a book and my thoughts are different, I would very much discuss it. I haven’t run into that experience yet but I have only re-read half a dozen books. I am not a big re-reader. obviously.

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    • Amanda says:

      Oh gosh, I’m a HUGE rereader! I don’t do it with every book, but there are books I revisit every year, or every couple years, and I love going back to revisit books I adored a decade back and seeing how they’ve changed for me. 😀 Sometimes I’ve been known to read a book 5 times a in row, too. 😀

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  5. Pingback: Sunday Coffee – A Rating History | The Zen Leaf

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