Books that did not stand the test of time

I still watch my fair share of cartoons and have a deep love for them that extends from early in my childhood. One of my favorites was Heathcliff — I adored that show when I was little. I recently found some old episodes on YouTube, sure that watching it again would whisk me back to the junkyard fights and trashcan-dumping shenanigans Heathcliff was famous for. Instead, I was disappointed; the cartoon was actually quite terrible. The voices were cheesy, the animation was cheap, and the plots were terrible. How could I have loved this show so much? When did I outgrow it? I never outgrow anything — I’m still amused by MadLibs for God’s sake. But sometime in the last 25 years, Heathcliff started to suck for me.

Could the same thing happen for books I think I love? If I went back and read some of my childhood favorites, would they suddenly be terrible? I highly suspect the pun-filled adventures of Piers Anthonys XANTH series would not have the same impact on me now as it did when I was 14. There are probably many other books I should never re-read. I rarely re-read books, so  I’m turning to the masses to answer my question:

Have you ever re-read a fantasy book and wish you hadn’t?

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. You know what didn’t hold up for me? Nancy Drew. I went back and read a Nancy Drew when I was in my late 30s. Okay, maybe I was 40. Where was the intricate plot I remembered?? The fascination over what would happen next??? To this day I am convinced I somehow stumbled across an abridged version…

  2. SandyG265 /

    I went back and re-read al Tom Swift Jr book recently. I loved the series when I was a kid. But as an adult I didn’t really enjoy reading it. Some books are better off left as fond memories.

  3. Sarah /

    I can’t think of any at the moment. But I will confess to re-reading a certain book hoping that maybe this time the completely stupid ending will change to one worthy of the rest of the book. Does that count?

    And I really don’t think Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Hardy Boys or any of those books should ever be re-read outside of childhood. The magic fades somehow when we grow up.

  4. Ling /

    I’ve read and re-read all the books in my collection a minimum of 3 times each (bearing in mind that my book collection contains mainly fantasy – I have a few non-fiction interest books) otherwise I just don’t see the point of buying the book, might as well go to the library or read it online. The characters, stories and the lives of the books have always held together for me when re-reading them. I believe it’s because they become alive using your imagination, whereas a show on television uses your sight in conjunction with your imagination which limits the bounds of creativity of your imagination. A few years ago I re-watched an old puppet show called “Sooty” (so, I can definitely relate) and I would definitely burst into tears if I even faintly felt the same way about any of my books that I did when re-watching that show!!

  5. CTGT /

    I almost never re-read books. I read “Dune” several times and “The Lord of the Rings” three times. I just recently re-read the first two books of Song of Ice and Fire to refresh for the HBO series, but that’s it. I just have too many books on my to-read pile.

  6. Sam /

    Two words: Charlie Bone.

    I really liked the Charlie Bone books as a child. They were about an orphan who realizes he has magic powers and attends a school for magic children. Sound familiar? I really liked the books as a kid – even if I did see the obvious Harry Potter similarities, they didn’t really matter to me. The books were exciting, and easy to read. I could go through a book a day.

    I went back and reread them recently. And while Harry Potter has (mostly) stood the time, Charlie Bone, for better or for worse, has not. Any originality in the plot (there’s not much, but it’s there) is obscured by the lazy prose.

    My friend and I have a joke that the maturity of a fantasy novel is directly proportional to the spacing of the typeface. Serious fantasy books usually go single spaced. Juvenile fiction is usually double spaced. Malazan is nearly 0.5 spaced. Charlie Bone is quadruple spaced.

    I liked these books as a kid, but they have not stood the test of time.

  7. Kieran /

    I can identify with TV shows (a few years ago I tried to rewatch an old favourite of mine called Bangers and Mash – oh dear), but usually with books the nostalgia factor is strong enough that it hides the weakness. There’s been a few I’ve re-read which I’ve thought weren’t as strong as I remembered. For instance, I remembered Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies being one of his best, but on re-reading I found it no better than the majority of his books from that era.

    Regarding type-face spacing, I really wish more adult novels followed the YA stadard of double or 1.5 spacing – it makes books so much more easy to read!

  8. Derek /

    I usually re-read when my feeble brain can’t recall anything in a series. I re-read the first three ASOIAF when Feast came out, but then I stuck to online synopses when Dance was released. I re-read the Jordan books a couple of times but always seemed to get stuck on book 6 or 7.

    I re-read more when I was a kid and had some favorites. The Shannara books, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, the Xanth books, Dragonlance books. Not so much anymore just because there is so little time and so much to read, especially as your horizons broaden as an adult.

    As for buying books, even if you read them once, I do believe in supporting our authors. I think of it in the same sense as music. If we are sharing or obtaining in free methods, not to say that I don’t, then those who do stuggle in the medium may have a harder time providing more for public consumption. Not a soapbox, it’s a way I justify buying a book I may only read once.

    And there is something warm and comfy about walking into a collection of books on a shelf. My goal someday would be to have a house with a nice, quaint reading room with relaxing chairs, maybe a fireplace, bay windows, and shelfs lined with books. Just a little nook with high enough walls for multiple shelfs.

    Isn’t the saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins”?

  9. Ling, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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