Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Re-Reading Books: The Key to Happiness

I recently hit paydirt, the way Jed Clampett did when he found the bubblin' crude. (I'm all about literary allusions). My treasure was not oil, of course, but books. The local library hosts a yearly sale: paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks are a dollar. Before I had children, I used to go there with my husband and a shopping cart, and we'd spend fifty dollars and come home with a hundred books. Now I have children, or as I call them, money sponges, and my budget isn't as high, but I managed to come home with a whole pile of paperbacks and my sons filled their own backpacks with treasures.

What's better than a big ol' box full of mysteries? It doesn't matter to me if they're tattered, or if someone made inscrutable notations in the margins. If they're intact, I love them.

As I was tossing books into my bag, I grabbed several that I'd already read. Sometimes these are the best of all. New books can be great and exciting, but there's always the chance I won't like one, or that the ending will disappoint me. But the ones I've read and loved? There are many reasons why they are the most perfect.

First, if it's been a number of years since I've read a book, I'll remember the title but often not the plot, and that means I can enjoy reading it all over again, not entirely sure of what's going to happen next.

Second, I love to stock up on my favorites so that I can give them to friends and still not lose the books from my personal stash.

Third, for the truly great books, it doesn't matter if I remember the entire mystery, killer and all. I still savor the journey, the dialogue, the wit, the structure. So I go to meet the story the way I would an old friend, perhaps for lunch or something. I remember everything I love about this friend; I wonder why it's been so long since this friend and I have gotten together; and I realize, wistfully, that it might be years before this friend and I meet again. But when we do meet again . . .

It's the same joy. Only re-reading brings this brand of happiness. I have a shelf of favorites in my headboard and if I feel bored, or sad, or lacking in inspiration, I can take them out and stroke their (sometimes tattered) covers, and then fall into the depths of that first wonderful paragraph, that first wonderful page, and feel myself taken back in time, to the day I first fell in love with this book.

12 comments:

Bill Cameron said...

I've got my faves that I go back to at need or desire too. I think I mentioned down below that The Lord of the Rings is my comfort book. When I get stressed or go through difficult times, I break it out. It's my chocolate.

I also have my "Shrinking Horizons" book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's a great book to open up the world when I start to feel like all I can see are the three feet immediately in front of me.

And, of course, there are the old mystery and suspense faves. I'll revisit John Straley or Earl Emerson or Agatha from time to time. They're old friends. What would we do without them?

Julia Buckley said...

Okay, two good book recs right there. Somehow I never read Tolkien (I think I started The Hobbit once and never finished) and I've never read Solitude either. Too bad my summer is ending right when I'm getting all these great book referrals.

Bill Cameron said...

There will always be more great books than we can possibly read.

Julia Buckley said...

You sound sort of like Confucius. :)

Bill Cameron said...

The falling leaf echoes the turning page. Of each, there is a infinitude, far more than one mind can ever hope to fathom.

Julia Buckley said...

Wow--you are GOOD! Hey, I live in a glass house. Should I throw stones?

Bill Cameron said...

The wise stone thrower knows the mystery of plexiglass.

Ron Estrada said...

My library has a "for sale" shelf. A quarter for paperbacks and a buck for hardbacks. My wife doesn't mind the money, it's the stacks of books that no longer fit on the shelfs that concern her. I say it's "research." Writers are so misunderstood.

Julia Buckley said...

I'm with you, Ron. Money spent on books is never wasted. Perhaps your wife could turn some of those hardbacks into a little table that holds more hardbacks. :)

Bill Cameron said...

My wife has, er, "opinions" about the quantity of books around the house. I just try to keep a low profile.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I love re-reading books. Like Linus' blanket, it's my comfort zone - going back to books I love. Sometimes, you just need to read something you know will speak to you.

Julia Buckley said...

Exactly my feelings, Sandra! And Bill, I can relate. When you start to need a bigger house because you have too many books, then there might be a problem.