Books Like Old Friends: The Joy of Re-Reading

I occasionally run across people who are avid readers who, when asked which books they read more than once, look somewhat astonished at the notion.  They say they never read a book more than once.  At that point it is my turn to look somewhat astonished.  For me some books have the capacity to become old friends.  They are the go-to books when life gets a little oppressive.  They are literary comfort food.

When it is time to lose myself between the covers of a book I am already familiar with there is an anticipation that is unlike the anticipation of opening a new read.  This is the anticipation of seeing someone I haven’t seen for a while; a distant, out of town friend coming to stay for the weekend.  I anticipate hours long into the night; hours of catching up, of discussing old times, of reliving the events we have shared in the past.

Most of my re-reads take place in the winter months when I am leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark, and the only daylight I get is through my office window.  Those are the months I am prone to bouts of the blues.  At those times it is great to curl up with a book that I know will deliver, that won’t disappoint.  An old and oft read book, a cup of hot tea, a favorite pet curled in my lap and I am ready to settle in for a long winter’s night.

The old friends from between the pages reach out and greet me.  Even the villains have a special place. They all welcome me back into their story.  Like an old pal who says, “I know I’ve told you this before, but…” the characters long to tell me their story once again.  They  once again sweep me away into their other world.  I dance at Gatsby’s parties again.  I celebrate the opening of Hotel Pastis again.  I spend time with Peter Mayle and his wife adjusting to life in Provence again.  I travel with the Wise Men to Bethlehem again.  I’ve grown up and grown old with My Antonia many times.  Sam Spade and the nameless Continental Op and I have solved the same mysteries over and over again.  I’ve dug and discovered and unearthed the past with gang at Tel Makor several times and each time the discoveries were exciting.  I’ve found Shangri-la with the plane crash survivors so many times I almost run ahead of the crowd now shouting over my shoulder, “Hurry.  Hurry.  We’re almost there.”

There is a joy in re-reading favorite books that is a joy different from any other.  Here are some of my favorite re-reads.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hotel Pastis, A Year in Provence, Anything Considered and A Good Year  by Peter Mayle

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

How Far To Bethlehem by Norah Lofts

The Source and The Bridges at Toko-ri by James A. Michener

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Lost Horizon by James Hilton

Almost anything written by Dashiell Hammett

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris


© 2014 M. Romeo LaFlamme


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