Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Rereading

"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he re-reads." - Francois Mauriac 

I love to own books.  My poor husband knew this when when he married me, but I am not sure he knew the extension of my book-owning frenzy.  Do not mistake me - I adore our local library and avail myself of it on a weekly basis.  However, I truly do love owning books.  I love the sight of my full bookshelves and the feeling of my books my in hands.  I love being able to fold the pages if need be, or write notes in the margin.  But my favorite part of owning my own books is a phenomenon known among most hopeless bookworms: rereading!

I am a chronic re-reader.  I read the same books over and over again.  This may seem strange to some readers, but many will know what I am talking about.  To me, the ability to reread a book is the ability to, at any given moment, meet up with a dear old friend and know their deep companionship all over again.  You know the feeling of getting together with one of your dearest friends for coffee and catching up?  That's what picking up an already read book is like.  It's a marvelously comforting thing to be able to do. 

In addition, rereading books is not really reading the same book over and over again.  My sixth grade teacher taught me this.  We were given a choice of two different books to read for a class assignment, and one of the book options was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  (One of my favorite rereads.)  My father had read this to me when I was about six, so I was going to read the other one, but my teacher - who was very intentional about knowing her students - strongly suggested that I reread it, telling me it would mean something completely different to me know.  She was right.  As a young child, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is just a fantasy story - but if you reread it again and again as you get older, you start to see other themes and messages emerge, and you begin to appreciate the message C.S. Lewis was really trying to communicate.  I never forgot this lesson, and I am eternally grateful to my sixth grade teacher for it.    We change as we grow older.  As we change, the meaning of books change as well.  Although I may know the story line of a book, I see it from a different perspective each time I read it. I am married with children now; that mean one of my favorite books, Up a Family Tree, is far more meaningful now than it was when I first read it as a teenager.  (See my previous review here.)  This phenomenon of books changing as we change happens every time I reread a book.

I reread different books for different reasons.  For example, I probably reread Gone With the Wind two or three times a year.  This book, which I have reviewed here, has been a perennial favorite of mine since middle school.  I know it so well that I can pick up any one of my multiple copies - yes, I have multiple copies - drop it open to any given page, and I am back with my old pals Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, and that Captain of All Wimps, Ashley.  This is a book I like to reread and play out scenarios in my head.  I can see each scene clearly as if they were being played out on stage in front of me.  Then I like to imagine how I would have reacted in those scenes and how I would really like to sit down all four main characters and knock some sense into their heads.  Rereading Gone With The Wind is a very active experience for me, and it allows the imagination to run wild.

The Mitford series, on the other hand, is a series I reread when I need something soothing.  It is just about as perfect a series as you can possibly find.  There are nine books, which means there is plenty to revisit, but each book (unlike Gone With the Wind) is a manageable size.  You can pick up any of the nine novels and simply pick up the story line.  Father Tim, Cynthia, and the citizens of Mitford are deal old friends of mine.  I don't really play out scenarios or rerun scenes in my mind from this series - each scene is perfect within itself.  You just soak in Mitford.  It isn't controversial and it doesn't get me blood going.  It's just...relaxing.  

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a book that I have not yet reviewed, but I plan to soon.  It is another perennial reread of mine.  This may be the absolute most perfect mystery book ever conceived.  There is nothing to change, nothing to alter.  The plot is something beyond genius.  It is a literary masterpiece.    I can figure out most mystery novels that I read before I get to the end, and then once I finish it, there's not much to revisit, so I don't reread them.  Why reread  a mystery when you know the solution?  Somehow, though, And Then There Were None draws me back again and again.  There are so many details that I forget things from year to year, so there are always surprises.  The summation in the next-to-last chapter, and the grand solution in the end, are my favorite parts, and they are so intricate that it continues to be exciting every time I read it - and I have been reading it since my teen years.  My copy is quite bedraggled.  But it never ceases to be fascinating.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is another book I revisit on a regular basis.  This tells the story of Corrie Ten Boom's family in the Netherlands during World War II.  This Christian family risked torture and death under the Nazi regime in order to hide Jews in their home.  Eventually they were caught, and Corrie and her sister were sent to a concentration camp.  This is one of those books I believe everyone should read at some point in their lives.  Corrie's courage and faith is both inspiring and humbling.  Her life is an example of that kind of life I want to have - not necessarily requiring a trip to a concentration camp, but unswerving faith in the face of great horror.  She is one of my heroes, and God has used her story in my life numerous time to teach me lessons about His love for His people.  It is not an easy book to read, but it is a necessary one, and one for which I have a special place in my heart.

There are many, many more books out there that I love to pick up and read again and again, all for different reasons - to live the adventure, to soak in the goodness, to experience a great story, for great inspiration, and more.  This is just a small snapshot of my rereading habits, and this is why my bookshelves are overflowing and only continue to grow.  (Sorry, husband!)  Rereading allows me to meet with the same thrills over and over again.  So my confession for the day is: rereading is one of my favorite pastimes.  If you've never tried revisiting a favorite book, give it a shot.  You will find that your favorites will renew themselves and give you a new meaning all over again.

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