How does nostalgia affect how I read books?

Here’s a fun fact about me: I love rereading my favorite books. There’s nothing better than falling back into a world and characters that I already know I’ll love, and I usually get something new out of it no matter how many times I’ve been there before.

However, when I reread these books and subsequently go to rate and review them,  I find it pretty much impossible to do so objectively due to my own nostalgia around that book. I know that nostalgia can change how I react to something that I’m reading, but how much does nostalgia really impact my feelings about books?


Harry Potter: a case study

At the moment, I’m rereading the Harry Potter series for the 203948th time (approximately). Obviously I love every moment of it – who doesn’t love going back to Hogwarts?? – but I realized when I finish each book that I have no idea how to rate it.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to rate a Harry Potter book anything less than five stars, because reading them makes me feel like going home. Having read that series so many times and at so many different stages of my life, it’s basically like a comfort food at this point – safe and warm and familiar. Reading Harry Potter reminds me of being a child and discovering magic for the first time.

How can I possibly rate that objectively???

I know, logically, that the series has faults, but I’m willing overlook them because reading the books make me so happy. I can’t help but wonder, though, if I were reading the books for the first time now, whether I’d be able to look past those flaws – whether I’d rate them differently.

It’s pretty clear to me that my nostalgia plays a major factor in my enjoyment of that series. And to be honest, I’m perfectly okay with that. But if my experience of rereading Harry Potter is so impacted by nostalgia, what about my experience with other books?


When nostalgia strikes

When it comes to rereads, I’m much more generous with higher ratings than with other books. Of the eleven 5-star ratings I’ve given this year, six have been rereads. That’s more than half! Is that simply because I’m rereading books that I already think are good and therefore easily rate it high? Or am I clinging to the idea that something I used to love must still be good? How do I know if a book I used to love isn’t good anymore?

And it’s not just rereads that are impacted by nostalgia. Maybe a book is a retelling of another favorite story of mine. (For example, I read a lot of Pride and Prejudice retellings.) Maybe the book is a continuation in a series that I love. Or maybe it even just has aspects that remind me of another favorite book. When faced with a plot, characters, or story elements that are already familiar and beloved to me, I often have an easier time getting into it, which therefore makes it a more enjoyable read. That makes a difference when it comes to rating.

The fact is, it’s always easier to give 5 stars to books that I already have some emotional connection to. Whether that’s because I’ve read it before – and this time can pick up on things like foreshadowing and character development – or because I’m already fond of the characters or the world, nostalgia definitely affects my reading. So the question is now: is that a good or bad thing?


Nostalgia: pros and cons

On the one hand, I love getting to revisit stories that feel like home. Even just turning on a Harry Potter audiobook while cleaning or flipping through the pages of The Goose Girl is enough to put a smile on my face. Stories and characters like those have grown up with me and shaped who I am, so getting to experience them again is comforting and uplifting.

On the other hand, struggling to separate nostalgia from critical reading makes it difficult to be an objective reviewer. For example, I recently read the chapter sampler of Call Down the Hawk, the continuation of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, and loved it mostly because I love returning to Ronan and Adam, characters that I already know. If I can’t separate my excitement about reading those characters from my actual assessment of the book, how will I be able to tell if it’s good? How can I give an objective rating and review if I can’t factor out nostalgia?

Then again, I don’t think my ratings and reviews are ever truly objective. I try to judge a book for its strengths and weaknesses as much as I can, but I’m always going to bring my own personal judgements and emotions to the table, and that includes nostalgia. To be honest, I don’t think it’s that bad if nostalgia impacts my reading experience and my rating, because that’s what happens when you have feelings about books. (And I do. A lot of them.)

There’s always the worry that nostalgia will make me overlook major flaws in a book – especially when it comes to books I loved a long time ago and would probably react to differently now – but I’d like to think I’m able to separate them enough to recognize that. In the meantime, I don’t think my nostalgia is going anywhere. There are always going to be stories and worlds that feel like home to me, and that’s always going to affect how I read books. And I’m okay with that.


Does nostalgia affect how YOU read? What books are you most nostalgic about?

x Margaret 

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30 thoughts on “How does nostalgia affect how I read books?

  1. Nostalgia does affect how I read, especially with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. There are definitely some books which I KNOW are not as great as I thought they were when I was younger, but for some reason, HP and PJ will forever sit on the 5 star shelf for me. They are good series, in my opinion, and I can continue to read them for years without finding a massive plothole or something else that upsets me. Even by my high standards, those books are still great reads for me, even after 10+ years of reading them over and over again.

    But if I read those books for the first time today… would I still absolutely love them? I have no idea. 😂 If I was going to write a review about a book I have nostalgia for, I think I would point that out in the review just so people know one of my reasons for loving it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh boy, I know how that feels! There are a couple of books, HP included, that I can’t even consider NOT giving 5 stars, even as my standards for that rating get higher. But I definitely think that in those cases, any review I write of that book has to be taken with a grain of salt, since it’s so subjective!

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  2. I feel like nostalgia doesn’t really affect how I read. I re-read some favourites from when I was 13 a few years ago, and while I knew where I had had certain reactions to things, I didn’t love them anymore.

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  3. I feel the same way about Harry Potter. I definitely think my 5-star ratings are based heavily in nostalgia, and I do think I’d probably rate them differently if I was reading them for the first time as an adult, but I’m going to keep on giving them 5-stars as it is. And that’s okay, I think, because if books meant so much to us the first time around that we picked it up again, I think that merits a 5-star rating. Clearly, we loved it enough to keep coming back, so that must count for something.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true! I think that if the author was able to get me that attached to the story, enough to come back to it over and over, then 5 stars is deserved, unless some glaring problem comes up (which it hasn’t for me with HP at least). Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Nostalgia definitely affects how I read. I know I will never get tired of The Book Thief, I’ve loved that book for ten years now. Harry Potter is another I’ve read over and over and will never be able to give up! It brings back so many memories for me, just like you! I can remember certain times in my life when I was reading it, a whole flush of memories really, like of 15 year old me reading all the books for the first time to all the hype for waiting for the last movie to come out. As well as all the friends and connections I’ve made through my love of Harry Potter. These books that we loved as children had a big hand in shaping who we are today, so we shouldn’t have to give them up. This was a great post 🙂 I really enjoyed reading it!

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  5. Nostalgia definitely really affects my reading too — if I read a childhood favourite and still think it holds up, I can’t not rate it 5 stars, but I know if I was reading it for the first time as an adult I would be far more critical. I’ve read Percy Jackson about a million times and all of Riordan’s books are pretty much automatically 5 stars for me even though as I’ve grown up I don’t find myself as completely absorbed into his later books. I just feel bad giving lower to a story I’ve loved for so many years.

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  6. I think nostalgia definitely affects how I read and feel about certain books, but the thing is I’ve never tried to rate objectively. My rating system is based purely off how much I enjoyed reading a book – it can be the trashiest, most badly written novel but if I loved reading it I’ll give it 5 stars! The same applies the other way around – no matter how high quality a book, if I don’t like it I’m rating low. I don’t know if this makes my reviews bad to read, since I basically judge only on my own tastes and don’t tend to take others into account, but it’s how I like to write, so that’s that! 😂 My favourite nostalgic read is definitely the Morganville Vampires series – I’m not sure I would ever pick up a new paranormal vampire series but I’ll never stop rereading these! 💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I think rating objectively is pretty much a lost cause anyway, since it’s impossible to judge what you think of a book without taking your own preferences into consideration. I try to be at least a little objective when writing reviews, but I just can’t do it when it comes to my old favorites!

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  7. Such a fantastic post that I really relate to 😍 I love rereading book as well and for me there are several nostalgia reads that always make me feel so comfortable and home … but I know that my perception is a bit biased. Harry Potter is a great example for this, I recently reread books 4-5 and it was such a great experience … but on the other hand I don’t know how I would feel if I read it for the first time. Still, I love the happiness these books always tend to bring me 💕

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  8. Have you ever had the opposite happen? You expect to feel some nostalgia rereading an old fave, but instead find you really dislike it. I’ve been working on a project on my own blog where I reread and discuss The Vampire Diaries and I expected to feel some sort of nostalgia, but instead am just questioning 16-year-old me’s taste.
    That said, I certainly think nostalgia is perfectly acceptable to take into account when rating a reread. After all, a big part of why we love certain books is the way they make us feel.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, that’s definitely happened to me before, though luckily not as often. That’s part of what makes me so hesitant to revisit some old favorites, though, because sometimes I just want to remember them for the good things, you know? That’s too bad that you’re not getting that with The Vampire Diaries. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, nostalgia DEFINITELY impacts my ratings and overall feelings about books, especially when I’m doing a reread. I think part of the fact is that I only reread books that I enjoy or that are part of series. And I understand that on rereads you may not enjoy a book as much because everything isn’t as new as it used to be. But when I reread my favorite scene, or experience an emotion that I had the first time I read a particular book, that nostalgia makes up for any issues I have because a book isn’t new to me anymore. I actually appreciate nostalgia because I don’t think I’d be able to reread books without it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ABSOLUTELY. Being able to return to a book I already love and experiencing all the emotions that I felt the first time is so great! And you’re so right that nostalgia is part of what makes rereading so fun 😄


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