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On Re-Reading And Different Editions

A photograph of different copies of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

A quick spin-off, last week I said the following:

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is associated with this – the way colour is part and parcel of your reading experience can mean that if you read the book again using another edition, whilst the story is obviously the same you are having a new experience of it, physically. Your current age may be a factor, but I reckon if you read a book twice over, once then a second time immediately following the first, with two different editions, those two times would seem different. The second may even seem wrong.

I wonder how much influence this truly has. Partly because there are the obvious influences of the publishing decisions to take into account, the way publishers are looking at new-first-time readers compared to what we’re doing when we re-read. It makes sense that each new cover, hardback to paperback change, for example, is going to be honed on creating intrigue and so changing covers allow for experimentation and the hope for a second audience ‘wave’ (Forgive me – Rick Yancey’s book may still be in my head).

Sometimes you can point to already popular books keeping the same cover, but it’s not always the case. Marketing choices are there to influence and so it wouldn’t be surprising if your feelings changed with a new edition; your experience has changed. In a way it could be said you’re reading a completely different book; it can certainly feel like it, especially if it’s been a while between readings. Will you notice new things? Will you see aspects in a new light due to a different colour choice? We know covers factor into reading decisions but they can influence reading itself.

I’m thinking here of my first, complete, read of Pride And Prejudice, where I used a relative’s 1970s Penguin edition that I didn’t open much because it was in almost pristine condition. Later dips into the book have happened with my own copy, the one I used in my review. Through time and the myriad uses of my own copy, I now associate Austen’s book with generous margins, good line spacing, and a good-sized serif font, but only when I’m thinking of times I’ve included the novel on my blog. When I think of the story I remember the big portrait on the cover of my relative’s copy and the way I worked my way through narrow line spacing at a speed I’d likely find difficult today, just five years on.

Do you find this? Do you associate a book with a particular version and would you/do you find it odd or hard to read the book again using a different edition?



October 5, 2016, 4:41 pm

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Sticking with P&P, I’ve had my copy for over 20 years and it is marked up and starting to fall apart. I thought I could never read any other version and have it be the same. But the last time I read it, about 6 years ago, I read a Project Gutenberg digital copy on my Kindle and I loved it just as much, if not more, and didn’t have to contend with all my old notes or pieces of the cover flaking off in my hand.

Jenny @ Reading the End

October 7, 2016, 2:13 am

Oh, I definitely have imprinted on the specific editions of some of my books. I have a hard time reading any edition of the Chronicles of Narnia other than the ones my mother read to me when I was a toddler. It’s not just the illustrations, it’s the covers and the font and just everything. They’re where my heart’s at.


October 8, 2016, 5:27 pm

I take a lot of comfort from our family’s old, battered copy of The Hobbit. While I have read my own newer, illustrated copy, I do keep finding myself reaching for the older copy when I can – I think that is because of the memories that come with the older copy; rather than any aesthetic reasons.


October 9, 2016, 9:34 pm

I only find it weird when the difference is translations, luckily (because I am so fickle) I’m not put off by an alternative cover version.

Although I suppose if it’s a different font that can be annoying, but it wouldn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Saying that though, I wouldn’t be able to get rid of the cover that I have the most attachment to emotionally, that would be horrendous.


October 10, 2016, 11:48 am

Stefanie: Interesting! And about the old notes – on one hand it could be said that those would be important as they’re a collection of your thoughts over the years, things that have added to subsequent readings or been part of them, but starting on a new slate is important sometimes. Though not having to worry about papers falling out would be a boon in itself. No attention taken by falling notes.

Jenny: ‘Imprinted’ – perfect term for it! I’ve stuck to my childhood edition of Narnia, too. I have the old version that came in an illustrated box, only my mother threw the box away, and still I prefer it. I’ve seen various adaptations and a few times, but my image of each book is still intertwined with the yellowing, fragile, books jammed between more modern books on my shelves.

Jessica: I think I know the one you mean – the edition recently recreated? I like the way memories can have an affect on reading experience – how it’s one experience no one else would be able to emulate exactly.

Alice: Oh yes, translation’s a whole other point. When I finished Anna Karenina it had been long enough between translations that I couldn’t compare but a shorter time inbetween or a more studious approach would have me wondering about wording and experience.

I’ve been known to abandon a book due to an annoying font – many during childhood, admittedly.

Yes, getting rid of the edition that was your experience would be difficult – I know when I’ve bought books I’d previously borrowed it’s taken a while for my association to transition from the edition I read to my own, new, one.



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