Do you have any books you can read again and again? When I mention that I often re-read my favourite novels, or even just certain passages, I often get this look. This bug-eyed, quizzical look similar to one I’d receive if I said I was vegan, or I weigh 110 pounds. (Note – both are highly false). I understand – for some people, the mystery is solved! Why read it again when you already know the outcome, when you’ve already met the characters and know the choices they make throughout? Some novels, for me, are the soundtrack of my life. They’ve punctuated an era with every mark possible: sometimes a period, often an exclamation, too many times a question mark, and, occasionally, an ellipses.
Re-visiting a book can be like looking through a photo album. There are so many that capture perfectly a stage in my life. Take, for example, my life before marriage. I highly enjoyed Melissa Bank; her collections of short stories A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot have both been read, dog-eared, and filled with Post-Its as their ever-changing protagonists bob and weave their way through dating, relationships, and coupledom. Did I learn anything about the ever-confusing world of partnerships? Nope. But it sure felt nice to not be alone.
David Sedaris’ essays have often helped me CTFD (see Urban Dictionary) as life has handed me, hyper rule-follower and general Type-Aist that I am, twists and turns that I was least expecting. One story in particular, Put a Lid on It from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, chronicles one of Sedaris’ convoluted but ultimately loving relationships and describes so astutely his need to control and “save lives” that it’s hard to not draw parallels in my life and reflect on my own behaviours.
And, I could not write this without mentioning Old Faithful, a hardcover so tattered and stained you’d think it had seen war and back, but it hasn’t. It has, however, accompanied me across continents, in front of a campfire, and in the bathtub. It’s cosied up to me in bed, and lain with me in cool spring grass. Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone is, ironically, my comfort zone. No one writer has captured the ties that bind – and unravel – family relationships, the utter despair felt during adolescence, and the delicate art of forgiveness quite like he has in this very simple collection.
Other novels on rotation include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, The KGB Bar Reader, and The Piano Man’s Daughter by Timothy Findley. These, and so many more, have been read and re-read multiple times, and likely will be again. Perhaps I like the reassurance of knowing the outcome of the conflicts faced. Maybe the characters have connected with me in some way I don’t quite recognize.
Or, it could simply be, there are times I like to find a quiet space and catch up with an old friend …