February 13, 2012

Love of Reading: The Comfort of Rereading

Jessica's note: This is a guest post written by Katie of Cakes, Tea and Dreams. Be sure to check out Katie's thoughtful blog and all the other posts in the Love of Reading series!

I’ve been a rereader since before I learned to read. It started when I was a toddler, when (I’m told) I begged my parents to read Ned’s Numbers just one more time every night. My mother still has that book, its spine held together with brown packing tape – as well as many of the other books we read and reread. But the books I remember best, the ones I read and reread to myself, have made their way to my grown-up house.

I always drew deep comfort from my favorite stories, curling up inside the familiar phrases and pulling them around me like a blanket. I rarely got bored with the stories I liked best – there was always something new to discover, some little detail I hadn’t noticed before, to complement the delight of familiar characters and plot lines and favorite phrases to savor. Even when my mom implored me to “read something new,” I always returned to my old standbys afterward, spending hours with Anne Shirley and the March sisters, with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Marty Davis and all the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club.

Years later, I can still recite whole lines and scenes from those childhood favorites by heart. Most of them live on my shelves or in a box under my bed, their spines webbed and creased, the very shape of the fonts on their pages familiar and beloved. And when life gets particularly complex or difficult, I return to those books – and those characters – I consider old friends.

I know not all readers are rereaders – and since going to college and grad school, and then becoming a book reviewer, I’ve spent more time reading new books and less time rereading. There are millions of books in the world, and it’s both daunting and delightful to explore new territory, and even to discover new favorites. But I still love leafing through the pages of Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie, looking to Laura or Jo for a dose of determination or Anne for a bright ray of optimism. These characters are as real as any people I’ve ever met; their stories are as true as my own. And it’s a deep joy to slip back into their stories again, to curl up and let the words take me back to Civil War-era Concord or Dakota Territory or Prince Edward Island.

Although I haven’t spent time with Ned and his numbers in years, I am still a rereader. I reread for the pleasure and comfort of spending time with characters who amuse, challenge, inspire and delight me. I reread because it gives me the courage to face my life as my heroines have faced theirs. I reread because their stories have helped shape mine.

My name is Katie, and I am – and always will be – a rereader.

In one of those awesome small-internet-world moments of synchronicity, Katie recently posted about rereading the Little House series right as I posted about reading Little House in the Big Woods! I love it when things like that happen.

What is the last book you reread? What series did you read over and over as a child?