I read this wonderful quotation attributed to the late William Robertson Davies, one of Canada’s most popular authors. Mr. Davies wrote novels and plays as well as dramatic criticism, and he was also a journalist and a professor.
Mr. Davies explained the compulsion to reread books. For all of you who have books on your keeper shelves that you reread every so often, you get it. Many people though don’t understand why people read books they've already read. He wrote: “The great sin is to assume that something that has been read once has been read forever.”
We, the keepers of the books, can attest to the veracity of that statement. We have our favorites that we turn to again and again. Each time we discover something different in those well-read words.
For my daughter, the book she reads every year is Dune. For me, it varies. My keeper shelf is more like a keeper bookcase, and the books are a motley bunch indeed with books from every genre.
There’s The Good Earth by Pearl Buck which I read when I was only a child, and it brought to life, for me, Chinese peasants. Watchers and Lightning by Dean Koontz still delight me because of the imaginative possibilities within those pages. A Rose In Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss is a desperately romantic swashbuckling tale.
The Ninja by Eric Von Lustbader fed my desire for all things Japanese. Shotgun Saturday Night by Bill Crider introduced me to Sheriff Dan Rhodes and, later, to Bill and his wife Judy.
Panzer Spirit by my old friend Tom Townsend is a marvelous mixture of Tolkien fantasy, Texana, and Nazis. Then there's the books by my good friend Elaine Raco Chase, the O. Henry Short Stories, my 12th grade English Lit book that I still have on the shelf, the Jane Austen books, and so many more.
Mr. Davies uses the example of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. The book is usually required reading in college, but the book you read at 18 is different, you’ll discover, than the book you read 20 years later.
The older you get, the more your vision of that book changes. The words haven’t changed, but the experience you’ve incurred with every year changes you so what you get from the book will be different each time.
Perhaps, we reread the books that have touched a chord within us in order to see how we've changed.
Reading a book again is like meeting an old friend after a long absence and being amazed at how your friend has changed.