I’ve been told repeatedly that I should be spending my time reading new books, not wasting it on ones I’ve read before. Perhaps that’s true–the world is brimming with undiscovered books, and I’d never get through all of them in one lifetime.
But there’s something comforting about re-reading books that gave you the warm and fuzzies, or about remembering the sheer joy when you read them for the first time. Charlotte’s Web is a book that’s aged incredibly well, even as I’ve aged as well. Even now, the ending (spoiler alert!) where Wilbur must leave Charlotte at the county fair to die alone still brings a tear to my eye. It reminds me of how a well-written book can build up a story so delicately and skillfully that such a simple act can be so moving. It’s not simply Charlotte’s death we’re mourning, but the breaking of a deep friendship.
I can’t neglect to mention the Harry Potter series, of course. Going through it and rediscovering with a writer’s eye how well-plotted it is, where the ending is a true culmination of events from all the books, is like admiring a work of art. Not that it stops me from being carried away by story from time to time, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay a book these days. It’s like reverting to that child from so many years ago, who loved stories with an uncritical eye.
There’s the darkly magical Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, the eternally quirky worlds of Roald Dahl, and the “always-guess-the-most-unlikely-person” mysteries of Agatha Christie. The Chronicles of Narnia were fascinating to re-read now I’m aware of the rich theology behind the books. Even re-reading something more recent, like the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, never fails to make me marvel at how much she tells between the lines.
Tonight, skimming through the Elenium series by David Eddings brought back memories of when I read these very books and discovered fantasy. His accessible writing, wry humour and sense of adventure opened my eyes to a new genre I’d never previously given much thought to. It’s a genre I’m still deeply in love with all these years later.
Going through all these books (and others I haven’t listed, lest you fall asleep on me) has been a long trip down memory lane. It brings back flashes of the person I was when I read them, and a new appreciation for them from the person I am now.
It may be the case that I should be reading new books instead. But like a child with a beloved stuffed toy, I simply can’t bring myself to abandon the books that came before. They will remain on my shelves until the day I pass them to my (theoretical) children, well-worn and much-read. And, I hope, they will become the memories of yet another generation.