Thursday, April 8, 2010

Re-Reading is Good for the Soul

I have been discovering a lot of new authors lately but there are always those books I turn to when I need a quick pick-me-up or I'm in a reading slump or I just want to revisit with old friends. There is nothing quite like re-reading an old favorite, whether it's been months or years since the last time. For me, my comfort reads tend to fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, which really is no surprise. Those were the books I read almost exclusively during my formative years.

A friend of mine is so busy at the moment that he is only reading new books. I think he's missing out.

We're human. We forget things. If it has been years since I last read a book, I can guarantee you that I will remember practically nothing about it other than if I liked it or not. In a way, it is almost like reading a new book, but not quite. You get deja vu as you turn the pages, and laugh in the same places you laughed before, and cry in the same places you cried before, and at the very end, you are still cheering for the main characters as they ride off into the sunset for their happily ever after.

Or, you get the shock that the book just isn't as good as you remember it. Which happens. Tastes change, we get more sophisticated in our language usage, or just expect more in a book than we did before. I, for one, have become utterly spoiled by Lois McMaster Bujold. Because of her, I now demand consistent characterization, realistic character development, a multi-layered but realistic plot, and well-written language. (I know, right? So demanding!)

I grew up on Nancy Drew. I devoured them, sometimes more than one in a span of a day. A while back, I picked up one of the classic Nancy Drew books, one of the one with the yellow covers, and tried to read it. I just couldn't. The writing was simplistic, the dialogue was painful in places, and I could not suspend my disbelief enough to ignore the first two.

But those are few and far between. I've found that generally, even if I've outgrown an author, I don't outgrow the books I have already read.

Whenever I go through a reading funk (and it happens more often than I would like), whether it's because I just don't have as much time at the moment to read, I don't find any particular book on my to-be-read list interesting enough to pick up, or I've gone through X number of not-so-great books, I find myself returning to old favorites. These are books that blew me away the first time I read them, that I connected to in some way, or played a role in the person I am today.

When I was in middle school, one of those books was The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George. I read the library's copy repeatedly and I probably would have read it to pieces if it had been in paperback. Some others that I still find myself revisitng are:
  • Jackaroo by Cynthia Voight: I swear this was the book that began my lifelong obsession with outlaws.
  • The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley: This book focused my outlaw obsession on Robin Hood
  • The Lark and Wren by Mercedes Lackey: Long after I've outgrown this author, I still find myself re-reading this book every year or two.

Oddly enough, I don't find myself re-reading books that I first discovered as an adult, no matter how much I love them. Maybe I just haven't found that one special book yet.

Does anyone want to share their favorite re-reads?

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