There are some books that leave such an impact on you, reading them for the first time is a real gift, a type of magic that only a book can give. Reading a book for the first time, even if you knew the story before you opened it, opens up a brand new world with its words, for you to lose yourself in. And some of those journeys are just so special, that I wish I could take it for the first time all over again, find those hidden plots, work out the mystery, feel the magic. There’s always joy to be found in rereading a book of course, but that first time read is just beautiful. So in no particular order, here are some of those I wish I could have that first time magic all over again.
I read Les Miserables in my early teens. It was one of the longest books I’ve ever read, and one of the most amazing. I remember the heaviness of the book in my school bag, a crossbody canvas bag, the book banging against the backs of my legs as I walked in a comforting rhythm. School wasn’t easy for me; I was more than capable academically, but was bullied badly. I’d find little corners to curl up in, windowsills to sit on, stairways to haunt, and read my beautiful book. It was one of those books where the paper was so thin, and the ink smell was still fresh; I’m not sure it had been withdrawn from the school library before me. I kept renewing it for weeks, pushing on with the descriptions of things that seemed both utterly irrelevant and essential to know. The amount of detail made it an utter work of art. I have a beautiful cloth bound copy these days that I rehomed from someone who had bought it for study and never used. I stroke the spine and reread passages, and whilst it still takes my breath away, I wish I could read it freshly for the first time again.
The Harry Potter series
Maybe a predictable entry, but I have no regrets. I remember each book, the first time I read them, how they captured me. I still have my original copies of the books, very worn and loved, and no matter how many times I read them, they bring something to my life. The first time I read them, though, they captured me in a way that little had before that point, as millions of other people around the world have said.
Calling this books ‘magical’ is quite fitting, and the journey with Harry throughout the magical world really is one of those that you can lose yourself in entirely. When my son read the books for the first time a couple of years ago, I relived that first read experience, watching his face when I knew he was going to read important passages and the like. It was just as magical.
Me Before You
All of the trilogy had been released by the time I discovered the book. By this point it had been talked about so much in the media and what have you that the major plot points had been discussed enough for me to know what was coming when I read it. And yet it took me completely by surprise how much I was in love with the book. Even knowing what was coming, I couldn’t help falling totally head over heels for the characters. I read the book in that way you do when you’re so desperate to take in every page, but don’t want to finish the book at the same time, then quickly did the same with the following two.
I’d been in a bit of a reading slump for a while before picking up the book, and it was wonderful to finally get back lost in a book again. I’d never read anything by Jojo Moyes previously, and I think it was both her straightforward but captivating storytelling along with these particular characters that made me just want to stay with Lou and Will. I genuinely grieved for several days after finishing it.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
One of my top books of 2019, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is still one of the most unique books I have ever read. A murder mystery, a love story, and utterly intriguing, it was an utterly captivating read. I loved every single page. I could read another dozen books set in this universe because it really was so unique, there’s nothing else that can mirror it. It’s hard to put into words; I read it nearly a year ago, but I can still remember absolutely every twist and turn, because it just stays with you in a haunting, deep set way. It really is one of the books I wish I could wipe from my memory only to pick it back up straight away. Even just writing about it is making me wanting to read it immediately, whether I remember it or not. Honestly, one of the most magical, incredible books I have ever read.
I read Circe before I started my blog but it remains one of the most in depth works of historical and feminist fiction I have ever read. Telling the tale of the myth of Circe but from her perspective, throwing off the previous bias from Odysseus, we meet the half goddess and follow her through her life, and, in this telling, through the various men who have mistreated her, and formed her into the person she has become. From the rejection of her father, the god Helios, to her subsequent decision to never let a man wrong her again, she grows into her power and into herself. It is a beautiful book, wonderfully written by the talented Madeline Miller, with so much that can resonate no matter the time difference between then and now. It describes a world of real magic, of a patriarchy where even guests feel entitled to a woman’s body, and where finally reaching breaking point sets you free, which, even if we don’t believe magic is real, is something we can find a relevance in.
There are so many more books that have left an unshakable mark on me, most recently The Ten Thousand Doors of January although it seems unnecessary to write about it again a mere week later. Books have a wonderful magic, although a magic switch to read them from the beginning again, would be a wonderful thing in itself.
Have I mentioned any of your favourites here? What else would you add to the list?