I have cringed watching Michael Scott kiss Oscar at least a dozen times. I can quote Steel Magnolias verbatim starting with “scene opens with young girl, shaded by oaks, walking down sunny, residential Louisiana street”. I will watch, with pleasure, my favorite stories and characters over and over. DVD, VHS, Streaming, doesn’t matter. I love experiencing them again. And yet, there are few physical books I pick up again to read — even if I liked the story. I suppose it is because of how much more effort it takes to read a book than watch a show or movie.
I have a hard time convincing myself to go through the effort of reading each page again when I already know how it ends. I love me some Cormoran Strike, but each book is like 500 pages. I happily devour each book as soon as it comes out, but coming back for a second course? That’s a heavy book to have to carry around twice. There are plenty of books I’ve read, got credit for, and left without looking back *coughBrothersKaramazovcough*. But a great many are left, fragmented, or even completely forgotten in my cerebral sieve. There are two exceptions and their names are Rebecca and Evangeline.
I love re-reading Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier because, even though it has become so familiar, I still get chills. I look forward to it even; I know what Ms. Danvers is going to do and, damnit, I can’t wait. Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow I come back to year after year in part and in whole. I can pick up any part of it and immediately I’m back laughing, praying or crying right beside Evangeline; it is a comfort and a catharsis.
It is a shame I’ve gone so long not re-reading books. While there is something exclusive about experiencing a story for the first time, unaware of its twists, turns, and final destination, a good story has more to offer than can be obtained in one reading.
That’s why I’m so glad I’ve begun to embrace audiobooks. They have become, among other things, a great avenue to re-read, or listen, to a book again while tricking my brain into thinking it isn’t working hard. Now I can re-live Lisbeth Salander’s sweet sweet revenge with ease. I don’t even have to listen to the whole book, just hearing Archie Goodwin throwing around some flapper slang is worth downloading a Nero Wolfe book to fill an afternoon. Each time Robin and Cormoran get a case in I pick up new clues and forshadowings. And if I hadn’t read Goblet of Fire again, I would have gone on thinking Cederic Digory was just a pompous meathead and not a strong, clever hero and a damn fine Hufflepuff.
I’m glad I’ve found a way to overcome my first world problem of not wanting to hold a book longer than I have to. Now, by listening to the series again, I can get the timelines of comings and goings in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I can soak in all the nuance and detail Rowling includes in the Harry Potter universe. I swear that woman tried to out-Tolkien Tolkien with all the folklore and history she included in that series. Reading a book for a second (or third or forth) time will never be like when I discovered it for the first time. But a good book always has more to offer with each new read.
Do you re-read books? What’s a book you come back to over and over?