When I think over my lifetime of reading books, I look at what I own now, and what I used to have, in my twenties and thirties. I find that I want to go back and read books that I read when I was 25, and haven't read since. Books like yesterday's post about Ray Bradbury - I know I read Fahrenheit 451 when I was a teenager, and I know I read Something Wicked This Way Comes (thanks for the comment, Chris; see my previous post, it reminded me of this!) in my 20's. But do I still own the books? No. I gave them away, sold them, lent them, over so many moves they were not among the ones I managed to keep with me. So now, many years later, it's time to revisit them. And that is what this post is about: reading cycles, and revisiting books read long ago. Does anyone else do this? Do you find yourself thinking back to the first fantasy or sf books, or romance, or mystery, or classics, that you were reading then? Do you miss them? I do. Did you give them away, or are they still with you? I wish I still had Sylvia Plath's Ariel, and The Bell Jar, which I read in my late teen's. My early Charles de Lint (and I had everything he wrote before I went to England), Stephen King, gone. So many books, that I let go of over the years, mostly due to my moving so often, I think. I would look at my books and think of what I hadn't read yet, and get rid of it if I hadn't (unless I knew I was going to read it shortly).
So how did I let them go? And why? I think I let them go - gave them away, put in boxes and then donated when I made one of my many many moves - because I thought I was done with them. I didn't understand in my 20's and even my 30's, that I would come back to them. If I was once interested in them, I would be again. I mean, I even went back and reread some of my earliest favourite Harlequin romances - they weren't as good the second time around, and that is the difference between being 13 and 28, I think!! It is like the spiral of psychological/spiritual growth - we finish with a problem, only to find we are dealing with it on a deeper level at another time. So I come back to books I read once, to read them on a deeper level, or from a different perspective or with more wisdom (I hope!) that life has given me.
I'm not talking about revisiting my childhood, or longing for the good old days. I want to read the books again, and see if my experience of them is the same, and what I remember, and if it's still good. I think, now, that because we moved so much through all my childhood and teen years, that I got used to leaving things behind, to getting rid of things if I wasn't actually using them, and I thought this applied to books too. I am beginning to think it doesn't. That for me, I do and will want to reread many of my favourites, and revisit authors I read long ago. So part of my desire to "own so many books my house might explode" isn't a material desire -"she who dies with the most books wins" sort of mentality - it's an understanding of myself that there will come a time when I will want to look at a book again, and I want it on my shelf instead of having to go out and buy it - again. Again being the key word....
So what books are essential in my library? I hear you asking...well, Gentle Reader, every book I've ever loved, ever liked. I do, like Bybee, have an Inner Bookworm, but alas mine isn't cool and tough like hers. Mine is literary and has leanings of pretension *sigh* it thinks I would look good in black and spouting poetry everywhere, and I have to keep convincing my inner Bookworm that I am NOT going back for my Master's and if I ever get published, I will NOT appear in all black and throw in the occasional French word just because I can....this is the same bookworm that wants me to read Jean-Paul Sartre and Goethe and yes, Virginia Woolf....so on occasion, pretentious books find their way on my shelves. I can say happily that Sylvia Plath had nothing to do with this inner bookworm; she belongs to the Dark and dangerous book self that I will deal with in another post (let's say that I understand Sylvia a little too well). I have many selves that have read books in the past - yikes, and that sounds a little like I should have the Three Faces of Eve or Sybil on my bookshelves too! - what I mean is, different books satisfy different parts of my soul. What I am learning is, I will return to those books again, sometime.
So, is this something any of you have experienced? Have your libraries changed over the years? did you ever give a book - or books- away and then find you wanted to read it again later? Have you ever thought you should get rid of some books, only to find you came back to them? I'd be curious to know if any other readers have discovered this tendency too. Maybe I'm the only one who has had to learn the hard way NOT TO GET RID OF BOOKS.
There is getting rid of what I don't need, and then there is living with my soul. So, in my world, I am learning I can never have too many books, to feed my soul and nurture my spirit, to turn to again and see what I loved the first time. Books like Anne of Green Gables, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, these are books I have carried with me almost everywhere I went. I can read and reread them, finding delight and sustenance every time I do. What I am learning is, now that I am in a permanent home, now that I am finally settled, I can let my shelves grow and expand, and among the new books I will buy, will be old favourites that I loved once upon a time. So my shelves will start to represent all of me, my history of books I have loved, over my lifetime. And I think that is what I really want. 20 years from now, I will re-read the books I am reading now, or the best of the ones I am reading now!! and any one I love, stays.