Top Ten Tuesday: Books I wish I could Read Again for the First Time

"Tope Ten Tuesday" in a white font mimicking handwriting on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

I am a big re-reader, and I love seeing the clues and hints stack up. There are usually new details to find, subtext to work out, all because I know how it ends. However, there are times when a re-read can never capture the magic of the first read.

1. THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE, by Samantha Shannon

Book cover for THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE: A roaring blue dragon wrapped around a crumbling tower.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE is one of the books that I keep meaning to re-read, but haven’t yet. Part of it is how absolutely chunky it is – re-reading an 800+ page book is a solid time commitment when there are so many other unread books out there. But a lot of it is worrying that the second read won’t feel as special.

So much of the appeal of PRIORY was reading a complete standalone book that unravels the myth of St George, and seeing how the various pieces of the story wove together as the world and incorrectly told history unfurled. The reveal of the true history can’t really happen again, because I already know it. I’ll probably get around this book ahead of the release of the companion novel, but it won’t be the same experience.

2. A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE, by Arkady Martine

Book cover for A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE: title in golf below a throne shaped like a sunburst

I’d already been a big lover of Political Fantasy when I picked up this book, but I hadn’t been reading sci-fi much for a very long time. It’s quite hard to turn the scientific part of my brain off when reading, so there’s a lot of me getting annoyed about laws of physics just being flouted because “it’s cool.” However, A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE introduced me to political sci-fi, the sci-fi cousin of my favourite fantasy sub-genre.

This book explores literature and assimilation as well as personal identity, wrapped up in a murder mystery around an ambassador’s death as the replacement tries to navigate a society that is both familiar from study but also alien. I want that experience of going “oh, I like this type of sci-fi” again.

3. THE TETHERED MAGE, by Melissa Caruso

Book cover for THE TETHERED MAGE: A blue outline of a flacon on a yellow background, with the image of a girl inside the body.

This entry is similar to the above, except this time, THE TETHERED MAGE was the first time I had consciously read a book that was openly and completely political fantasy. It’s not a fantasy book that happens to contain a small element of political intrigue, it is the main plot, with people scheming and cutting deals that isn’t related to nations marching to war. It makes it feel far more intimate a story despite the world-affecting stakes, with the villains not a faceless army to defeat.

I absolutely loved it, and have re-read it several times. However, I would love to re-read it without knowing what I was getting into, or what the sub-genre was like, to recapture that feel of knowing I’d absolutely found the sub-genre that I could return to again and again without getting bored. I’d need to erase the memory of a lot of books to gain that, though!


Book cover for A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS: title in white and red surrounded by gold swirls and a red wax seal

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS is a political fantasy that is also a historical one. Instead of the typical historical fantasy set up of having a story happen against the backdrop of a historical period, working in a space where there is no history that makes the main record, this book takes the history that we know happened and adds magic and a secretive war to it. There are obviously some alterations to the timeline, but it’s remarkable faithful.

Reading this book was like finding a concept that I’ve always been interested – actual history re-interpreted without major alterations – and been made real. It’s a fascinating period too, one that I’ve been aware of but never deeply studied unlike others. I have seen this general period before many times – the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars are very common fodder for historical fantasy – but I’d never seen them explored from the political stance, where more time is spent in debates than elsewhere.

5. A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER, by Holly Jackson

The obvious candidates for a list like this are thrillers/mysteries. I do re-read mysteries, but knowing the solution does detract a lot from the experience of reading them. Much of the tension and forward momentum is built from not knowing who committed the crime, how, and why, so reading on to find out the answers. If you know the answer, it does take a lot of that away.

I could have filled a lot of the slots on the list with thrillers/mysteries, but I decided simply to pick my favourite of the lot. The multi-media elements are great, as is Pip, the main character, as she’s someone I can see a lot of myself in. However, the ending is the real super star, as it manages something I haven’t seen a lot in mysteries.

6. TRUTHWITCH, by Susan Dennard

TRUTHWITCH, and the rest of the Witchlands Series, are often lauded for the intricate world building and layers of clues hinting at the reveals that are to come. It means it’s a series that does enrich on re-reads, as you know what reveals are coming, so have a chance of spotting the clues and working out how and why certain events in the earlier books happened.

However, I also wonder what it would be like to read as if for the first time again, to fall in love with the world and characters all over again. Not to mention any readers discovering it now have most of the series they can binge in one go without needing to wait for the later instalments!

7. QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS, by Helen Corcoran

I gulped QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS down at the very end of 2019, and have kept meaning to re-read it, but you know how it is. Too many books, and far too little time! While I’ve love to read it again full stop, I’d also like to experience discovering the story all over again. It has embezzlement and fraud, a young queen falling for her spymaster, and a country that’s uneasily poised between monarchy and parliament.

That last is so rare in fantasy – democracies are rare as a general rule. As much as I love absolute monarchy books – as there’s less time needed to be spend on the particulars of elections and family feuds among the nobles can be brought into play – there’s also something great about watching ambitious politicians try to advance themselves while being aware that their positions can be taken away in a vote, so needing to appeal to the population. A book in that transition period where parliament is gaining power but the monarchy still has a lot of power is a rare find indeed!

8. RACE TO THE DEATH, by Annelise Gray

Book cover for RACE TO THE DEATH: Title in black on a purple and yellows image of a girl on a horse looking over a landscape with a stadium rising in the background

RACE TO THE DEATH was a bit of a surprise when I read it. I was rather excited for it – a historical MG set in Ancient Rome, harking back to when I was the target market’s age and devouring the Roman Mysteries series – but I wasn’t expecting to devour it or love it as much as I did. Not knowing you’re going to love a book as much as you end up doing is a feeling I’d love to recapture.

It’s a fast-paced book about a girl who loves horses and displaced from her home, trying to survive the Emperor. Rigging and betrayal abound in the Circus Maximus, and Dido is caught right up in it all.


THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is a brilliant debut fantasy in a rich world inspired by Hungarian and Jewish folklore, with intricate characters and a romance even I got behind. It explores ethnonationalism and prejudice in nation building, as well as religious bigotry.

I read it and loved it when not particularly I was well, so part of me does wonder how much more amazing (if that’s possible) it would be if read for the first time when in good health.

10. WINTER’S ORBIT, by Everina Maxwell

Book cover for WINTER'S ORBIT: title in green above a sci-fi landscape

WINTER’S ORBIT is one of the few books I have re-read already this year. I am a re-reader, but rarely within the same year (and mostly when there’s a new entry in the series, though I’d love to feel like I had the time to just re-read a book for the sake of the book, rather than a new entry coming.)

This book is clearly going to go on the list of “comfort reads,” as it was the one I picked when I ended up waiting in hospital for tests and a lot of pain. It’s just so much fun, an arranged, political marriage that blossoms into love, and a mystery over a dead ambassador (the former partner of one of the main characters.) Again, I’d want to re-read from scratch just to fall in love all over again.

What books would you like to read again for the first time?

10 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books I wish I could Read Again for the First Time

  1. What a bunch of great books to add to my TBR! i had no idea the Priory of the Orange Tree was the story of St. George. I lost interest partway through and never finished it, partly because I just couldn’t see where it was going and it looked like it was going to take forever to get there! But now maybe I should return to it and be a bit more patient!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite a big book, and slower paced, but worth it in the end for readers who are into that sort of thing. It’s defo not for everyone, given the style!


    1. It’s very very good! If you are in a location where there’s the option between the UK and US versions, I’d highly recommend the UK version – it’s the original. The US version has had the location shifted to the US, but the book is very much British but with words replaced, so some readers find it jumbled/inconsistent in tone

      Liked by 1 person

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