To Reread Or Not To Reread
Thursday, July 7, 2016
This past weekend we went to visit my grandmother. I try to visit regularly but it has been awhile since the whole family has made it in to see her. This time I brought my laptop so I could show her the pictures from our trip to London back in April. She used to love to travel and was very into photography before she had her stroke so I thought she would enjoy seeing the pictures. I was right, she did enjoy it but finally after about the five millionth picture of a bookshop she looked at me and asked "but what do you do with all these books? You buy them and read them, but what then? Do you just give them away?" She was confused by my choice to buy souvenirs that I would not hold onto, that I would just give away again. I explained to her that I would keep the books but she found that just as baffling. Why would I keep a book I had already read?
Now, my grandma is a reader. She has always had a stack of library books on her end table and she trades books with my aunt. She is a reader but she doesn't own books. There are no jam-packed bookshelves, no old favorites that she goes back to again and again. Once she has read a book she is done with it. I suppose there are many people who look at books that way but I am the exact opposite.
If I love a book I want to read it over and over. I want to submerge myself in the story and get to know the characters better on a second reading. I want to notice details and connections I missed the first time through. I simply want to revel in knowing what is going to happen and in anticipating my favorite parts.
As I have gotten older and the internet has made more and more books easily accessible I don't reread quite as often. Some days, however, only an old favorite will do. I want to sit in the attic and munch on apples with Jo March. I want to walk to Netherfield Park with Elizabeth Bennett. I want to dance at a ball in Regency times. I want my old friends to comfort and soothe me.
Some books I have read so often that I can recite whole sections of them. As a teenager I memorized an entire swathe of Pride and Prejudice. My dad occasionally still makes me recite it just to see if I can. What can I say, we are a family that is easily amused. Despite those feats of memorization, I don't have the best memory. Wording I particularly enjoy may stick in my head but whole plot points manage to evaporate. Maybe that is a reason why I don't mind rereading books. There is always going to be something I don't remember and sometimes that is something vital like who the murderer is. I suppose it is a bit of a contradiction. I remember and love books but at the same time I don't always remember them clearly. I think I am grateful for that. I can reread books and somehow they are still brand new.
The two books I have read most often are probably Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. I am not sure how often I have read them, I wish I had kept track of my reading when I was younger. It must be twenty times at least but honestly I am just guessing. It could be more. I read them a few times a year for years and years on end. To read them again is like coming home.
Even when I read a book for the first time and I really love it, I also know that I will probably love it more the second or third time around. The first time I am galloping through, caught up in the story, desperate to get to the end to find out what happens. The subsequent times I slow down and notice more. I sink into the story instead of skating on the surface. I love to reread.
My grandmother also asked why I had to go all the way to England to buy books. I am just a baffling grandchild.
Are you a rereader? What book have you reread most often?