“What books have you been reading lately?”
I considered. “I’ve been re-reading a bunch of books. Anne of Green Gables. The Secret Garden. The Chronicles of Narnia. A lot of children’s classics, I guess.”
Micah and Sarah Beth stared at me across the table. “Why would you re-read books?” Micah asked.
“Some books are just really good,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s never the same if you read it again.”
To be honest, I didn’t quite know why re-reading was so important to me. It was just something I always did. I thought that the people who didn’t re-read were the weird ones.
It was Wednesday Morning Coffee Time (P.S. you’re still invited), and presently, Sarah Beth and I had to leave to pick up Ashley and go on our Portland expedition. I thought about books a lot that day. First, at Powell’s Books, I found many books I wanted to buy, all of which cost more than I could justify spending. At the subsequent thrift stores I looked for books but found nothing I really wanted.
Finally, at the Goodwill Outlet, I dug through the large bin of unwanted books. It was my last chance to find an affordable book. For some reason, I felt a strongly-tugging desire to leave Portland with a book in hand. And so I sifted through the bin, tossing aside paperback romances and beat-up textbooks, looking for something remotely good.
Just as I was about to give up and move on to the clothing bins, I saw it: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I was so excited I nearly hyperventilated.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. One of the most well-written, creative, and unique modern books I’ve ever read. Besides that, it is a book for adults written with the creativity of a children’s book, which is depressingly rare. And it was at a discount Goodwill.
I left Portland with a warm lump of satisfaction in my heart. If I hadn’t read the book yet, I wouldn’t have felt the same feeling. An un-read book can always disappoint you the way that already-read books cannot.
“Is that the answer?” I asked myself. “Do I re-read books because they are a safe place that can’t disappoint me?”
When I got home I sat cross-legged on my bed and cracked open the volume. Reading the well-crafted witty writing was like hearing a brilliant song, and wondering how the creator of the content could have such unbelievable talent.
Maybe I re-read books for the same reason people look at a painting again and again, or crank up the same song every time it comes on the radio. There is a multifaceted loveliness to artwork that can’t be fully appreciated if you only experience it once.
I read up to the point where Mr. Segundus and Mr. Honeyfoot get a tour of Mr. Norrell’s library, and then put the book away for the night. I drifted off to sleep, imagining that I had Mr. Norrell’s library, or at least, something very like it. It was a wonderful thing to imagine.
That’s the real reason I re-read books, I guess. A book is like a magical wardrobe that leads to another world, and I want to go there again. Even if the same things happen each time I enter, I always want to go back.