Posted in books, re-reading

in defense of re-reading books

i have friends who have never read a book more than once. no matter how much they like the book, the characters, the ideas contained within, they just can’t understand the point. “but you already know how it ends so why bother?” i generally smile and nod and tell them that they’ll never understand.

sometimes life just sucks, you know? sometimes it’s hard and scary and i can’t sleep. sometimes all i can do is sleep. sometimes it feels like everything in life is changing so quickly and i’m so exhausted just trying to keep up. there isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with the changes, and i don’t like change anyway. change is bad, very, very bad. and i have stacks of books to read; both real stacks and virtual stacks. all new books with all new people doing all new things in all new ways. and it’s overwhelming and utterly terrifying. so i turn to old friends.

i go back and visit joshua and biff because i know that they’re not going to be doing anything new. they’re going to say the same things they’ve said and do the same things they’ve done the last two dozen times i’ve read their story.

i drop in on georgia and shaun. yeah, okay, their world is full of zombies and there’s a giant conspiracy afoot but georgia and shaun and the gang at after the end times never let me down. i trust them to do the same thing every time i revisit them.

i follow harry dresden around on a few adventures, be they good or bad. harry doesn’t always win the day but he does always have the same morals, the same ethics, and the same snark every time i drop in on him.

i wander into any of a number of the lives written by gabriel garcia marquez. my favourite is one hundred years of solitude but i love his short stories as well. not only are all of these people alive for me but they are all going to say the same things and go in the same direction that i expect them to.

that’s the perfection of re-reading a book. there are no surprises. richard mayhew isn’t going to suddenly decide to move to new york. mary katherine blackwood isn’t going to suddenly go sane. and murder is never going to be anything but murder. the old friends we find in our most beloved stories can always be depended on – they’ll always say the same things in the same ways, they’ll always do the same things at the same time and in the same places, they’ll always love the same person, or perhaps betray them, and they’ll never change their fundamental selves. that’s something that life can’t do for us, no matter how much we might wish that it can, so we turn to fiction for the temporary comfort of stasis. and i re-read books when i just can’t handle another change, no matter how insignificant someone else might view it, in my life.