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Old Friends

I'm a huge re-reader. I re-read therefore I am. I cannot imagine going through my life reading each book just once. Never forming such an attachment to a character or group of characters that at some point down the road I find myself having to return and walk with them once more. I know that, as Tom Stoppard said, "I'm going to be dead before I read the books I'm going to read." But I don't care. Or at least not enough to change my ways. I could as soon give up re-reading as breathing. So it was with much delight that I came across this piece in the New York Times, "Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-reader." The author describes his rereading library:
It’s a miscellaneous library, always shifting. It has included a book of the north woods: John J. Rowlands’s “Cache Lake Country,” which I have re-read annually for many years. It may still include Raymond Chandler, though I won’t know for sure till the next time I re-read him. It includes Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” and lots of A.J. Liebling and a surprising amount of George Eliot. It once included nearly all of Dickens, but that has been boiled down to “The Pickwick Papers” and “Great Expectations.” There are many more titles, of course. This is not a canon. This is a refuge.
I adore that. A refuge. That is exactly how my collection of books I re-read regularly feels. They're not what I should read, necessarily, but what I have to read. They're the books that last, that remind me everything's going to be okay, that there are entire worlds on the other side of a wardrobe door, that Lizzie and Darcy will forgive each other, that Huw's valley was once so very green. I love how he talks about "savory re-reading," the kind in which you already know how it all plays out and so you're able to just drink in the language itself, the turn of phrase, the emotions evoked, the simple location of the words on the pages themselves. I love it all. And I love reading about others who feel that way too.

(Thanks to A Curiosity Shop for the link!)

Comments

  1. What's your go to book? Mine depends on my mood. What I'm needing.

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  2. I am in total agreement!

    Except for one quibble--I would go more with "snuggly" reading than his "savory". Savory seems like like something requiring concious appreciation, and hence more conciousness that one is reading, as opposed to wrapping the blankets of book around oneself and pretending there is no outside world!

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  3. I feel the same way. While most of my re-read are comfort books (like Pride & Prejudice), I've also just started re-reading Stephen King's the Stand. I can't explain it, exactly, but periodically that book calls out to me from the shelf, in ever louder tones, until I give in and read it again.

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  4. A Girl of the Limberlost
    An Ordinary Princess
    Anne of the Island
    Millenium Hall
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (and other Narnia books, too, but mainly this one)
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    Mostly YA novels. Maybe that's what makes 'em snuggly.

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  5. Great post. I used to be a huge re-reader. Lately, though, I haven't re-read much. Your post makes me want to go back and read my favorites. :)

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  6. I love the song. Takes me back... The ones that have been staring at me since being unpacked are the Alana series by Pierce. It has been 15 yrs since the first read, I think it is about time for a second. Ones I have just read for the second time are the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Of course I don't have number 5 so I am stuck mid way, ugh! It is nice to visit old friends...

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  7. Jennie, ooh, excellent question. It does depend on my mood, or the season. Here's a list off the top of my head:

    The ALANNA books for comfort
    SUNSHINE in the fall
    DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST for a fairy tale (and the beautiful language)
    A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT for cynicism
    LIFE WITHOUT FRIENDS (the irony...I know) when I'm lonely
    MY BROTHER MICHAEL or THE MOONSPINNERS when I need to travel
    ARCHANGEL for a love story
    HOW I LIVE NOW when I need to be strong
    HARRY POTTER (1,3,4,7) for magic
    THE ROAD HOME for a dose of cold, hard reality (can be strangely comforting)
    Anything by Diana Peterfreund for summer
    MIDDLEMARCH for something meaty. And for Will...

    Aaaand I think I'll stop myself there.

    Charlotte, I totally hear you. The most comforting of comfort reads are snuggly in their familiarity and in their ability to shut the rest of the world out.

    Jen, that's so interesting. I've been getting a good vibe from THE STAND and need to gear myself up for it soon.

    Diana, what a lovely list. I think I've actually read FRECKLES more times than GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST. Not sure why. Perhaps because I read it first. And what is it about DAWN TREADER? It's my favorite as well. I tend to think it's Reepicheep. And when I met your Reepicheep I knew you were a kindred spirit. :) I've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my 5-year-old and we had such fun with that one. Hopping around on one foot like the Duffers. Sticking bangles up our arms like poor Eustace. *happy*

    Em, I'm glad. I think we all go through phases. Sometimes I'm ravenous for the next new thing. And sometimes nothing new will do.

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  8. Heidi, an Alanna re-read is always a good idea. :) And you can come borrow Sookie #5 anytime!

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  9. *raising hand* I am a re-reader (and I never want to quit)

    And yes, what I re-read at any given time depends on what is going on elsewhere in my life--different type of comfort, if you will :grin:

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  10. I've been doing more re-reading this year and I love it. Count me among the fans!

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  11. ALady and Janssen, yay! Re-readers for life. I certainly re-read when I'm in a slump as well. Guess I need the known quantity to revive me.

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  12. Anonymous10:10 AM

    I definitely find myself re-reading according to season or mood. I love reading Jane Eyre in the fall when the storms rage about - it adds to the Gothic atmosphere. And I always find myself reading The Secret Garden when its a cloudy gray day, I've done it since I was in grade 6, it's practically tradition now haha. I read Little Women in the summertime, Emily's Quest in the wintertime and The Sherlock Holmes Collection in the Spring...and Claidi Collection - I always re-read those in the summer too because of those crazy desert and landscape descriptions. I guess I should read more my age haha

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  13. Angie,
    I love to reread and am also a "seasonal" reader, and a "depending on my mood" reader.

    There is NOTHING like laying on a blanket in the dappled shade outside on a mild day with the bees buzzing around you, butterflies fluttering by and slipping into a book that you love.
    It's like getting into a hot bath,
    the muscles just melt.
    Lovely post.

    Karen :)

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  14. I found your blog via My Friend Amy's week in review post. While I have not been a re-reader in the past (there are always so many new books that I want to read) - I am slowly but surely learning the value and pleasure in re-reading "an old friend." The NYT article was great, and I may use some of those quotes in my classes next year.

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  15. I'm a big re-reader too. It's like when you're feeling down and pop in an favorite old movie to cheer you up. Books are like that too!

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  16. xalwaysdreamx, oh man. JANE EYRE is such a perfect storm read! I love that you have traditional rereads as well. I used to reread the ALANNA quartet every Christmas break. It was wonderful but also made it so hard to go back to school...:) I took the Claidi Collection on a summer vacation once and they remain a fiery, hot memory to this day.

    Karen, that's a wonderful analogy. There's something so utterly relieving and relaxing about the act.

    Molly, what classes do you teach? I, too, will file this article away for future use. I used to teach freshman composition and I still think in that mindset sometimes. What will ring true for my students?

    Amee, sometimes I definitely gravitate toward an old favorite movie. 84 Charing Cross Road, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, and Pride & Prejudice are some of my solid go-to movies. And I just re-watched Anne of Green Gables with my daughter the other day. 10 months isn't too early to begin indoctrinating her, is it? ;)

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  17. How much fun to find this posting through Jen Robinson's page and then to come here and find not only your delightful post but the NYTimes article as well. I am and have been since childhood a re-reader. Most of the books I regularly re-read are children's books but the GIFT FROM THE SEA is also a refuge book for me. Thank you for a trip down memory lane affirming "re-reading."

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  18. Rasco, I'm glad you found your way here and you are most welcome. It really was a lovely article, I thought, and made me happy to know there are others out there who turn to old friends for refuge. :)

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