What I Talk About When I Talk About Re-Reading and Curating My Personal Library

I started thinking about this post when I re-read Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series this winter. Since I’ll be spending next week re-reviewing that series (based on my re-reads), today seemed like a good time to share this post.

I never thought of myself as a person who re-reads books. I even mentioned that I wasn’t a re-reader when I talked about curating my personal library.

I was wrong.

It turns out I am totally a re-reader but I still had a lot of curating to do because I didn’t have books that I wanted to re-read on my shelves. I discovered this in a very concrete way when I picked up the Queen’s Thief series for the first time in seven years. And wound up buying three sets of the series over the course of one month.

As soon as I heard about the reissues of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I knew I’d be buying a set as soon as they came out. My plan was to re-read the entire series once the reissues were in hand so that I’d be ready when Thick as Thieves came out. My plans changed when I found out I’d be reviewing Thick as Thieves for School Library Journal (reader, I screamed). Thick as Thieves is marketed as a standalone but I wanted to have the series fresh in my mind so I could really be sure this book would stand on its own. (Spoiler: It totally does.)

SO instead of re-reading shiny new editions, it was time to pull out my rag tag set. My “original” set of MWT books includes library sale copies and one ARC. The library sale copies included two hardcovers I acquired at my first ever library job as a shelving page. Then I found a paperback of book three (and discovered there was a book three!) when I was working as a library clerk. I received an ARC of A Conspiracy of Kings in 2010 from Caroline Ward, one of my favorite library school professors who gave me her copy when I finished her Children’s Literature course. (Caroline is the best and gave every student in her class a book to keep.)

Maybe everyone else who re-reads all the time knows this already, but I felt such nostalgia when I picked up this series again and re-read these books I had picked up years ago. I love this series in a way that I love few things and it was amazing to rediscover these stories.

I also realized that even though I knew the broad strokes of the series by heart, I still had room to be surprised by the intricacies of the series. I’ll spare you all the details but I also discovered that while I remembered favorite lines and scenes, I often forgot their framing in the larger context of the story which added another layer to my (re)reading.

Anyway, I had a blast re-reading the series and realized I loved it so much that I became one of those weirdos with multiple editions.

So now in addition to my rag tag set I have a full set of hardcovers. I love having these because the series has changed so much (remember The Thief was originally published in 1996). Even The Thief and The Queen of Attolia are far enough apart that the aesthetic changes a bit although they have the same trim size. By the time The King of Attolia is published, the series was due for a complete reissue. I have to admit that these covers are some of my favorites. I really like the subtle nods to the characters–especially on A Conspiracy of Kings where you can pinpoint the exact scene used to show Sophos on the cover.

Since I love that cover art so much, I decided I should also get a set of paperbacks. I like this version of The Thief a bit more because it feels like it really is Gen and Hamiathes’ Gift. The cover for The Queen of Attolia has always given me chills. It works interestingly as the cover for that particular book but also in the context of the rest of the series.

And then it seemed like the series might have been done except for some tantalizing hints from MWT that she had more to say. Until lo Thick as Thieves was announced along with a complete reissue, special bonus content, and maps for the first time ever. I love these covers and have been poring over them basically since they were announced trying to pick out all of the details. The reissue makes sense with current cover trends and it also works with the direction the series is taking. Thick as Thieves is the first story that doesn’t focus directly on one of the main kingdoms (Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis) and as such it has a new cast of characters and a new setting. While I love the hyper-realistic artwork of the 2006 reissues, I don’t know what they would have pulled for potential art from Thick as Thieves. Seeing the series as a whole with this latest story, the new covers make so much sense and underscore the grand stage of these books.

Also because I have fallen so far down this rabbit hole (and accidentally found an ARC of The King of Attolia through sheer happenstance) I’m trying to complete a set of ARCs but that might be more than my budget and sanity can stand.

And, of course, I had to dedicate much more shelf space to the full set:

Since picking up MWT’s books I’ve also started re-reading other favorites from my shelves including Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Saving Francesca and its companion The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. I’m currently re-reading Diana Wynne Jone’s Dalemark Quartet which is interesting because I only barely remember reading it and also because the series is currently out of print so tracking down copies took some time.

I think a lot of my choice to start re-reading right now is escapism. The world is scary and unpredictable, especially lately, so it’s nice to be able to return to stories where I know exactly what to expect and that I will love it. As more and more of my favorites go out of print or become scarce in the library, I also find that I like having copies on my shelves so I can read them at the drop of a hat.

Those are the things I’m keeping in mind as I decide what gets to stay on my shelves. Is this a book I loved? Is it a book I will re-read and love again? Is it a book I’ll miss if it’s gone? These questions aren’t easy to answer and sometimes my choices change. But for now it’s as good a criteria as any to decide what books have earned the right to take up space in my heart and on my shelves.

Do you re-read books? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what books you own and why? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “What I Talk About When I Talk About Re-Reading and Curating My Personal Library

    • Definitely! One of my coworkers now had Caroline as a professor maybe ten years ago. She gave everyone in that class a book too :)

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  1. I love this post so much! I have always been a rereader. I kept Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next to my bed in high school so I could just pick it up at any time at any place in the book to read for a bit of comfort. Then it was HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Now its often the Thursday Next series or honestly a Nora Roberts book. Total comfort reading.

    You said it perfectly: “I think a lot of my choice to start re-reading right now is escapism. The world is scary and unpredictable, especially lately, so it’s nice to be able to return to stories where I know exactly what to expect and that I will love it.”

    I haven’t read any of Turner’s series so now I clearly need to put them on hold at the library – tell me where to start?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved Thursday Next in high school and college! I lost track of the series after First Among Sequels though.

      For MWT I’d recommend reading the series in publication order although you can really dive in anywhere. It keeps the plot linear and you won’t have any spoilers. Start with The Thief and if you’re not sure about the series from that at least try The Queen of Attolia before you make a final decision–it’s more indicative of the tone of the rest of the series. After that the books are The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, and Thick as Thieves.

      Liked by 1 person

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