Books Remain the Same

Reading a book–in any way that thrills you–is an experience. There are books that I have read more and more slowly as I came to the end because I couldn’t bear to not have the characters in my life. Pillars of the Earth. The Cider House Rules. The Women’s Room. The Thorn Birds

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There are books I forced myself to finish because I knew I should. Middlemarch. Bleak House. Portrait of an Artist as  Young Man. The Red and the Black.

There are books I could not force myself to finish, even if they were short, and popular. My eyes rolled so hard I was afraid they would get stuck in the top of my skull. The Bridges of Madison County. Anything by Nicholas Sparks.

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And years later, the opinion formed the first time I read the book becomes how I think of the book.

Lately, I’ve taken to re-reading books I loved or hated years ago. There have been some big surprises. Books that I thought were complex and deep suddenly seem less nuanced. Books that I thought were silly and trivial now seem to strike the heart of human experience.

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Slowly it dawned on me. The books are the same. Same words. Same content. But the reader has changed. Life does that to you. And as the reader changes, so does the opinion of the book. As true as it is that one does not step into the same river twice, it is true that a reader does not read the same book twice.

And that is why every room of my house has a bookcase jammed with books. Because I keep going back to read books that have changed while sitting patiently on the shelf.

–Quinn McDonald also reads ebooks and listens to audiobooks. She loves it all.

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18 thoughts on “Books Remain the Same

  1. I still like the “Stone cutter” and did some more reading today while waiting in hospital. I think I’ll finish it soon. Hope you will enjoy it too!

  2. You brought a smile to my face with this post Quinn. I remember in my twenties how bowled over I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird again having last read it in high school. And recently Pig Cookies by Alberto Alvaro Rios made me wonder at myself all over again as I found it at Mom’s again last week and dipped into it.
    Definitely a joyous post. Thank you 🙂

  3. I have been an avid reader since childhood, but nowadays I mostly read art related books or biographies… but last month I have been away for some weeks (without internet connection) and 3 days before leaving I started “The stone cutter” by Camilla Lackberg, a book I found in the house we rented. If we had stayed a day longer I would have finished the book. So I went to the local bookstore to buy the book. As they didn’t have it in stock I bought another one by the same author to put in the bookshelf, so that I could take “my” thriller with me to finish at home….. only home again the book no longer inspires me as much….. I think that the fact that I only read a page or two in bed before falling asleep is one of the causes I am no longer eager to finish the book… I realize that the internet sucks up lots of my reading time…..

    P.S.: It felt good to have a look at your bookshelves! We have bookshelves in every room too; and I don’t feel fine in a home without books…

    • Interesting about The Stone Cutter–I have it on my “to read” list, too. There are some books I read only when I am on an airplane, traveling. Something about the mindset. And every single room in our house has a bookcase. Except the guest bath. And it will when we renovate it.

  4. I do the same thing with books I enjoy – read voraciously, only to slow down at the end because I don’t want to leave the story and the characters. Great post.

  5. every time i comment on your blog i get 2 emails saying to click here to subscribe to your blog and get your posts via my email. I already get them in my email so i don’t click it because i really don’t need another copy of it. Any idea of how to handle this? Should i just click to see what’ll happen?

  6. I’m older so my book choices of The Good Earth and Imperial Woman both by Pearl S. Buck are old books. I used to read them once a year and they caused me to finally go twice to China. I wanted to find a little of the China portrayed in those books and i did find it in many wonderous ways. Those memories make me cry now that China and i have both changed so I don’t read them anymore; the dream is gone. Another book that affected me was Ira Levins’ This Perfect Day; it made me think. I don’t want to read it again for fear the wonder is gone and changed sitting in the bookshelf all this time. Pretty sure it would seem very unimaginative by todays’ standards.

    • How wonderful that a book called you to China! I love that idea. And China and you have changed drastically; the first time I was there, I was unusual because I am tall and had lighter hair. The method of transportation was bicycle. With cabbages piled on he back. Ahh, memories.

  7. The Darkest Child is a book I didnt want to end at all. That story forever changed me. While The Interestings is a book I had to force myself to finish. Ugh! And that 50 Shades of Meh…I could not bring myself to finish. Loved this post.

  8. I’ve done the same, Quinn. Last weekend I purged three bags of paper crafts books I thought I’d never part with, but in going back to them, they’re either too ‘precious’ or ones I’ve already mastered to the point of not needing the instruction. The books that remain are now a doubly precious resource. I constantly re-read Larkrise to Candleford and Bless This House: every time I open them, I am different. Thanks for this post!

  9. Love this post! I’m almost afraid to reread books that I loved and do so only after a great debate with myself. My Helene Hanff books were still wonderful after 3 readings – especially 84 Charing Cross Road and its sequels.

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