Monday, March 30, 2009

The Joy of Re-Reading Books

Last summer I 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.


Eric Mayer said...

I have no problem rereading books because I usually forget most of what happens. I'm not sure why, except that I have a bad memory. I even forget books I enjoy. All I remember is thtat I enjoyed them. Or maybe all I remember that they were memorable!

I recently read Appointment in Samarra and knew the ending just by way of general knowledge but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book at all. (Actually I guess you should know just from reading the title and beginning of the book with the tale from which the title is derived)

Cindy Fey said...

Have I recommended these to you before? I'm sorry if I have forgotten doing that, but I always think of you when I see the series "Treasury of Victorian Murder" graphic novels. They are an amazing journalism/art/murder mystery/comic hybrid.

Julia Buckley said...

I'm with you, Eric. When I was a 20-something I remembered all the details, but I don't have that problem anymore. :)

Who wrote Samarra? Is that John someone?

Cindy, that sounds very hip of you. I will have to check it out, although they sound rather macabre. :0