A familiar book is like an old friend. You may not have spoken to each other for years, but as soon as you meet again it’s like no time has passed at all. As you gaze at those familiar pages, you’re transported back to all the times you’ve read it before.
It’s a strange feeling – comfortable, but there’s also a tinge of melancholy. Time has passed, and sometimes you wish it hadn’t. I like to see these books as prisms through we which can view our own lives. It’s a bit like time travelling. You get a fleeting reminder of the first time you read it, the feelings you had at the time, the place you were in. I’m often shocked by how vivid these memories can be – and yet, they slip through the fingers so easily.
I get this feeling when I revisit the books I read when I was between the ages of 16 and 21. Those introspective years when you do so much growing up, so quickly. The long summers when you’d devour book after book in a quest of self-discovery. It’s no coincidence that the books I remember from this time are some coming-of-age classics, like I Capture the Castle and the Cazalet Chronicles.
I’ve re-read these books many times over the years that followed, and they always take me back to that time in my life. But the clever thing about books is that they’re not just snapshots – they help us remember, but they also help us imagine. Each time you revisit a book it’s still possible to learn something new, to appreciate it on a different level. I sympathise with different characters and notice things my younger self missed.
And what about those books you always meant to read as a child, but never did? Go back now and found out what you were missing. The Harry Potter novels never clicked for me as when they were first published – I was just the wrong age, and it wasn’t the right time for me to appreciate them. But reading them in my thirties has felt more special. I devoured them, and felt bereft when they were finished. It was almost as though by reading them I’d been able to travel in time again – back to the time I might have read them.
Books are prisms. Look one way and you’ll see the past, reflected through the present – look another way and you’ll see the future. That feeling of discovery never gets old, and it’s a reminder why books should always be an important part of our lives.
Do you have a favourite book you like to return to, again and again?