When Books are Updated

I recently started reading Lois Duncan’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. The main reason for this choice was that I had no idea this even was a book, and you don’t often see horror movies (especially slasher flicks) that were originally novels. (Um…I’m going to exclude anything by Stephen King from that last statement, however!)

This book is from 1978, and there is a definite 70s feel to the style of writing. Which is perfectly fine! But once I got a few pages in, I ran into something a bit jarring. In the midst of my happy reading, I started coming across odd statements about things like cars having GPS, text messages, SPAM messages, and webcasts. And as I read through these inappropriately modern references, it began to dawn on me what was going on…the novel had been updated to reflect modern times.

Sure enough, I checked, and the book was “revised” in 2010. UGH.

Now, I found these additions really noticeable because the rest of the book definitely seems like it was written a long time ago. But even if the writing was more modern, and the new references less noticeable to me as the reader, I would still find this extremely annoying.

So I’m curious…do you dislike it when books are updated?

I like reading things from various time periods. Not specifically historical stories, but just stories that happened to be written in different times. It’s fun to see how daily life was different in the past…the little things, like how much change someone uses to buy a soda, or how much it takes to run a household for a year. I find these details fascinating, and educational, too! Sometimes I don’t know a name or object the characters are interacting with, but I’ll then look it up, and see how it fit in with the times. Okay, I like researching, so maybe not all readers enjoy this. But is it really necessary to throw in random references to modern technology to try and make a story more relevant?

I get really bothered when this happens to stories. I don’t think it’s useful, and often it’s not even done well. But I’d like to know if anyone else has any thoughts on this. Do you like it when books are updated? Or do you prefer to read them in their original, dated state?


  • Diana Wilder

    VERY annoying! I suppose it is meant to fit in with modern sensibilities, but it never works. I remember reading a philosophical treatise written in the 1700's. It was revised to suit modern audiences. The discussion about wanting to spend a great deal of money for an expensive car just to show up the neighbors did not work.

  • Deshipley

    Yuck! I vote a hard "NAY" to that being done to books. It's one thing to take an old story and completely retell it in a modern time period. To just shoehorn modern stuff into an old text strikes me as horrific and absurd, if not downright pointless.
    1) It's robbing the readers of a chance to learn things and be immersed in a different world. Why mess up the reading experience like that??
    2) We wouldn't revise a dated /nonfiction/ story that way, would we? Let's afford fictional history the same respect.

  • S.K. Anthony

    But why??????? No!!!!
    I appreciate a book for what it is, and in its true form. The updates would annoy me too. I didn't know that movie was from a book, how interesting. Either way, they should have just left it. If it was updates because of grammatical issues, I get it. Otherwise NO!

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