Well, that’s a bit harsh. Maybe I should’ve said “Never re-read favourite childhood books, unless you’ve prepared your heart for disappointment.”
But, in my life, considering all the dreams lost and plans foiled, the most disappointing moments have been when I decided to re-read a past favourite book/series.
This doesn’t happen often, my choosing to re-read something, and when it does, it is almost always at least two years between reads. Most books, to me, aren’t “alive”, so to speak; creations that manage to change, be different and new, with each read. Those books are, very, very rare in my life. I usually need about a 2-3 year buffer between reads to forget the details that made it interesting. (I’ve yet to fully forget the main plot of any book I’ve read, so the details are what I need to keep my interest.) Some books, I need closer to a decade.
In my youth, there were some books I read every year, I loved them that much; I loved the story, the prose, everything. Some, like Edding’s Belgariad and Mallorean, I can still read with just as much enjoyment as I did in my youth. Other favourites, unfortunately, did not fair so well. Surprisingly, it was not the stories that pushed me away, but the prose that I once loved so much.
The first series I experienced this with was Terry Brook’s Shannara Chronicles; I loved these as child. I loved the plot, the characters, the works. But I especially loved how it was written. To my ten year old mind, it was the epitome of descriptive works, and after which I strove to model my own writings. So, in the last year of university, I decided to reread them, and bought the first book as incentive to go to the gym. (Telling myself I could only read it while on an exercise bike.) This worked precisely once, and that was when I learned that one’s taste for prose can change drastically over the course of a dozen years. I faced this again with Pier’s Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series. Descriptive passages I once marveled at now set my teeth on edge. It’s rather depressing, actually. I still love the idea of the books, the story and characters, but I can’t get two pages in without my fingers itching to rewrite it all. (Not, mind you, that I think I could do better, or that I would if I could; these stories deserve to be told in the voice of the one doing to the telling, not in mine.)
There are a great many books I read and loved as I child that could/would not read now, and the idea I am probably denying myself a great story based solely on matters of style preferences is concerning.
All this jabber to say, I’m careful now to choose what I reread carefully, lest I taint fond memories with new sensibilities.