On Re-reading Books


As a child books were a luxury. There were only a limited number of books available and very few hopes of getting new ones.

What could a child, constantly hungry for stories, do?

What indeed, except read the same set of books again and again and very often, once again. The funny thing was, I don’t recall ever feeling bored at the thought of reading the same book again. Each time I opened it I felt the same sense of anticipation and excitement.  Almost as if it was a brand new book that I was reading for the very first time.

On those rare occasions when a new book did wander into my life, I read it as fast as I could, turning the pages with a mad tense intensity. Because the aim was to get the book read for the first time. Once that was done, I could take a deep breath and relax. The second reading was slower for there was no reading record to be set, no one to defeat in the reading race. And this time I had the time to pause and notice things, to appreciate the story, the characters, the ingenuity of the author in drawing various strands together to weave a satisfying finish.

I own many books now. And I read them again and again and very often, once again. With every reading I find something new about the book, something that escaped my attention the last time, something that I was perhaps not old enough or experienced enough to understand the last time. And that is what turns the experience of reading the book into a joyful discovery of a new book, a new story and brand new characters. And after every reading of the book, I am richer for having learnt something new.

The last time I read one of my constantly new old books, I understand, in one of those blinding and dazzling epiphanies everyone is always talking about, exactly what I had learnt this time.

That I was smarter as a kid.



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