by Rana Asfour
Many people I know have drawn up a rough list of what books they want to read this year, making sure to leave a few empty spaces for new titles that will be released further down the year for authors they already know and like or even for those books that will come highly recommended by friends and family or experts whose judgment they value. What is most interesting to observe, and this is in no way based on any scientific research on my part, is that many of the people I have spoken to have listed one or two books re-reads on there. This, I think, is brilliant.
Reading is great. No argument there. Reading a broad range of titles expands the mind and offers insight into a world of ideas that enrich your understanding of the entire world from the comfort of your own surroundings. However, reading is also one way we learn about ourselves. We are continuously changing, growing and evolving; from the way we talk, to the way we dress to the way we pass judgment on the world around us. As much as we hate to admit it to ourselves, humans are fickle creatures. What we like today, we may secretly abhor the next and what we vowed we would never do in the future is refuted by today’s circumstances. We change and with it our perspective does too.
I had previously written about my experience re-reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ (here) and how the way I understood it changed each time I had; first as a teenager, then as a love-struck 20-year-old and now in my not-so-young-anymore age. It was not only proof (as if proof were needed) of how very good writing transcends time but it was fascinating to experience the realization of how much I, well my perspective, had changed as well. Even though reading is often a solitary activity, one is never really alone reading a book. It is you and your life and all that makes up that life that holds that book with you. When one reads, one is essentially allowing for a sanctioned invasion of the mind’s privacy. Think again if you thought reading was a passive activity!
So, ‘To re-read or not to re-read?’ That is the question! And my answer is a guarded yes. Time is precious and unless the book title of choice is seriously worth it, and by that I mean if there is a feeling it will add value of any sort to one’s life when it is read again, then go for it. In certain books, as in life, there is a kind of beauty that is blinding in its force, mesmerizing even, that will take your breath away and leave you spellbound and hooked for life. However, there is another kind of beauty that is subtle, quiet, with a power in its insistence for attention. One might look away but is continuously being drawn for ‘one more look’ and that is what re-reading is all about.
So, I have made up a short list of some of the books that I re-read as an adult and some I continue to re-read not only for their enduring appeal but because of the precious memories they re-awaken as well. What book have you re-read?