Best Second-Chance Books

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo says that the time to read a book is the moment we acquire it (or become interested in it, I suppose, for those of us who do not really acquire unread books). If the book remains unread, it will most often become never-read. I’m not sure this is true 100% of the time in book-blogger-land, but I really like the philosophy of reading a book the moment we decide we want to, rather than letting it wait. Sometimes, letting it wait can be a bad thing. For example, I wanted to read Let It Snow back in 2009, but received my copy a few days after Christmas. I saved it for the following December, and by then, I’d grown tired of that genre and didn’t enjoy it nears as much as I would have when I first received it. Boo.

Sometimes, however, I think it is useful to wait to read a book when the time becomes right. One of the longest-standing unread books on my shelf is Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance. Its been on my shelf for 18 months, and will remain there, unread, until I am mentally in the right place to read it. I know this is a book I will want to read – a continuation of a series I love by one of my favorite authors – and so I am comfortable waiting. Sometimes, waiting for the right time to read a book can turn a lukewarm experience into a magnificent one.

This is often the case for me when it comes to second chances. Sometimes, I’ll read a book and abandon it partway in, only to return to it later and discover that it clicks with me on the second (or third, or tenth) try. Today, I want to talk about the best of these second-change books!

1. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Years ago, when I first started trying out Gaiman, I came across books I liked and books I disliked. Neverwhere opened with a scene that turned me off, so I put it aside unread. A friend convinced me to try it again earlier this year, and I ended up loving it. Not my favorite Gaiman, but still worth the read.

chocolat2. Chocolat by Joanne Harris – Tried to read this one once, couldn’t get into it, decided to watch the movie instead. Then I loved the movie, and later went back to the book. After the movie, the book was much easier to read for some reason, or perhaps it was just the right time. Loved it!

3. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – I actually read this one all the way through the first time, after seeing the 1999 movie The Haunting, and I disliked it because I thought it was copying all the tropes of the genre. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t realize it was a classic, that Jackson pretty much invented those tropes. Going back with more knowledge later made this one into a winner.

4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – I’m not the hugest Austen fan, and I’d read too many of her books the year that I tried to read Northanger Abbey. I gave it up, but later watched the film version with a book club. It was so much fun that I tried the book again, and after I’d spent some time away from Austen, it was a much better read. Ended up being one of the two Austen books I actually love!

5. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – My review of this book tells the long story of why, when, and how I tried and retried this one. I am so thankful to have given this one a second chance. It’s become one of my favorite books ever. I loved the audio, I loved the mini-series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a print copy to read again!

ravenboys6. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Oh the difference audio can make. This one fascinated me years ago, but I couldn’t get into it. After some twitter-persuasion, I tried it again on audio, and fell so much in love that I spent all of last fall listening and relistening to the series.

7. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – For years, a friend tried to get me to read this one. I kept trying, and never made it past the first page. I have no idea what impelled me to try and try and try again. Then, in early 2012, after a string of failed audiobooks, I gave this one a final chance on audio, and fell instantly in love. What didn’t work in print worked perfectly in my ears, and I ended up listening to this one a half-dozen times before I could put it aside. Really.

What are your experiences with second-chance books? Do you ever go back and try something again? Is there ever a “right time” and “wrong time” to read a 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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8 Responses to Best Second-Chance Books

  1. Jeanne says:

    I had a long list of books to read for my “comprehensive exam” in literature for the PhD. One of them was Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I tried it, and then tried it again and couldn’t get interested. Then one day I took it to the pool at the apartment complex where I was living. That was it–I read the whole book right through in one day and loved it.

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    • Amanda says:

      I want to try that one again one day. I read it back in 2001 and didn’t understand a word. I still pushed through it, but have just about no memories from it. I’m no longer 22 years old with very little experience with classic lit, or with Woolf specifically, and I think it’d be different this time around.

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  2. Kristen M. says:

    Well, since four of these are on my “favorite books of ever” list, I’m glad you gave them another try! I tend to never go back and try something again. I really should though … like with Possession. I read the first chapter or two and then abandoned it. It might have just been the wrong time for me and it.

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  3. Beth F says:

    Yeah, sometimes you have to be in the mood. I’ve decided not to save my DNFs if I can still get them from the library. I love three of the books on your list but Northanger Abbey is not my favorite Austen (though I still like it).

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    • Amanda says:

      I can totally get behind not saving DNFs. I tend not to own books until I’ve read them, so I have this weird mental catalog of my DNFs that still niggle at me and make me attempt them multiple times. 😀

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  4. Shaina says:

    I only gave Hill House three stars when I read it, and some of the points you made about it here give me pause about that rating. Maybe I wasn’t blown away because so many people did the same things later, without realizing that this is where they may have originated. This calls for a re-read!

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    • Amanda says:

      Even later, reading Hill House again, it wasn’t my favorite of Jackson’s, but it was SO MUCH BETTER with that perspective. It’s like – once, my cousin read Jane Eyre for the first time, and she wasn’t blown away because she’s read a lot of romance and so many tropes come from Jane Eyre. I think it all depends on what angle you approach a book like that from.

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