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25 November 2012

Rereading and My Library

I now have over 1000 books, which is not bad, if I consider the financial limitations of the first few years of young marriage and parenthood.  I look forward to acquiring several thousands more.  Amongst them are some I have not read.  I look at them fondly because I know I will someday.  As for the rest, I often reread books.  I can go back to happy places, exciting, dangerous, ancient or imaginary places.  Every time these stories are familiar and new.  I can visit brilliant conversations and enjoy the scenery all over again.

The second and third readings are especially delicious because I notice details that were not obvious the first time.  To read a book ten years later is to read a new book.  I am cursed with the memory of endings, unlike BPR, but my view point and experiences in the mean time add fresh twists to the understanding of the book.  There are the books that I reread once a year, these include 'The Lord of the Rings', 'The Book of Tea', 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Please Don't Eat the Daisies'.  Why I go back I do not know, maybe it is seasonal, or maybe it is because we all have friends and like good friends, we want to see them again.

Sometimes, I read a book again around the time I want to share it with my children.  I did this with Sherlock Holmes before giving the book to my son.  My daughter is reading 'Life of Pi'.  She saw the previews of the film and thought it looked cool.  I gave her the book and this morning she opined that Pi is an idiot.  Last week Pi was clever on account of what he did with his name.  I hope to read the book again once she is done with it.  My children like it when I say "Oh, I read that at your age."  They open up; Ask questions that would be awkward with "I" or "me" in them... Last night, on a long drive home, my daughter and I had a serious conversation about 'The Outsiders' which, I too, had to read in seventh grade.

Familiar books are soothing when I am stressed.  Books are often the cure to a horrible day with a cup of tea.  Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett, Okakura, Isabel Allende, Fannie Flagg, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, Jean Kerr... I could keep going. I reread all the time while reading new books.  'The City and the City' by China Mieville has been calling recently,  I think it is time to visit that strange place again.

None of this would be possible without my books at home.  Libraries have opening and closing times as well as other patrons.  There is a limit to how many books I can lift in one go or even check out in one go.  Though I must write that those difficult years mentioned before were made bearable by a lovely local library one passage away. I can underline cool bits and stick book markers in different places.  I can enjoy them over and over again.  Some would argue that a tablet is better for my purpose but on a tablet I do not own the book.  I pay for the privilege to read X book on their tablet.  This is a privilege they can take away and per the very small print, they are not obliged to tell me why.  Should my tablet fall in the bath tub, it is apparently, my problem and I have to procure a new one or lose the books,  should the software change radically as happens faster and faster these days, or the new and improved tablet make mine obsolete then I have to go shopping again.  Tablet makers are in the market to sell tablets, not books.  If 'Pride and Prejudice' falls in my bath then all I need is a blow dryer.  The only tablet plus I can think of is that it makes reading easier for my mother when her eyes get tired in the evening; she can opt for bigger letters.

There is the satisfaction of owning books.  I can pick one up on a sleepless night, read my favorite chapter and put it back, no need to check if the batteries are charged.  Books add warmth to a home.  I always notice when there aren't any and I somehow feel suspicious of the inhabitants of said home.  "We have no time to read."  "My wife doesn't like to read."  She does like it when they both watch tv together, if he reads, he is "ignoring" her.  A house without books feels like a hotel room to me... no personality.  Several persons of my acquaintance are not allowed to keep books at home.  If one book comes in another must go out.  It is pointed out that libraries are to keep books.  I have noted that the enforcers of these rules are not readers themselves and only tolerate the time their partners read, if at all. I never had this discussion with BPR.  When he met me, I was surrounded by books.  I could not afford to ship them to Europe, where we eventually settled 17 years ago so I set about buying books to make a home.

Yes, there is time to cook or garden or read or whatever you love to do with and without your family.  If you happen to have a garden at hand or an excellent kitchen, that is all to the good, so why not books at hand to reread?  Books remind me that I never stop learning, even from the same book.  Books leak (the Librarian at Unseen University would agree) knowledge and perspective and often change my life in magical ways because of it.


  1. Funnily enough I'm in a rereading phase at the moment, it comes in waves. Its Dracula at the moment, it was Robinson Crusoe recently, I first read it about ten years ago and struggled through it, this time I sailed through getting annoyed with Defoe's sanctimonious attitude to religion, something I missed before. We don't have a one in one out policy, but our 'library' is a constant state of flux, books are lent out or given away, a hard core remain, although as I discovered last week when my copy of Dracula fell apart, some need to be replaced.

    1. Every one with a lot of books, a library if you will, manages it in different ways. As for the rereading in waves... I constantly reread, the choice of books happen in waves or seasonally. Pride and Prejudice is a Summer book, The Book of Tea is a Winter book, etc.

  2. Anonymous08:52

    This is a wonderful idea, when i get home i will do same, starting with The Lord of THe Ring.

    1. I am glad you liked the idea... Wonderful also for childhood books. For Christmas I have requested a book that an English teacher read out loud to us in fifth grade. I looked it up because it has stuck in my mind for so long. i could not even remember the title, I had to look up different terms and plots I remembered. I so look forward to reading "The Weir Stone of Brisingameth" I hope that is how it is spelled...

  3. Anonymous10:40

    today, i happened to be discussing books with my son and daughter in law. part of our talk was the pros and cons of hard copies verses digital media. i have a kindle and i like the ease of holding and turning pages. but that and bookshelf space are the only advantages of electronic literature. i love going to a bookstore and reading the back cover/liner notes or author bios. i love the touch and feel and smell of paper and ink. i love my overflowing bookshelves and the example that it sets for my children and grandchildren. i need a bigger house though.
    i guess i might reread 5 or 10% of my library. after a few years my memory is faded enough most of the reread is fairly fresh. obviously, there are many "oh yeah's" while going through an old favorite.
    my stepdad just passed and he has a treasure trove of books. he read mostly history and politics. the family will have fun going through the collection and trying to find a place for the books each of us claim.

  4. What a lovely way to keep his memory... To pick up one of his books and imagine the political world he lived in, his opinions and his interests are still there for you.

    I love the way books feel and smell as well. Reading is a sensory experience.