On Books and Reading
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”― Oscar Wilde
Over the years, as I have grown older, grayer, and more set in my ways, I’ve noticed how many habits I have that are like those of my mom and my maternal grandparents. I tend to listen to the styles of music my grandparents preferred – classical compositions, mostly from the Romantic era – and some of the ones my mom listened to when she turned on the car radio or – less frequently – played on her Zenith stereo console’s LP record player: Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, and standards from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. (Of course, I branched out and acquired a taste for such subgenres as film scores, “easy listening,” and artists that include Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Billy Joel, and John Denver.)
In a similar vein, I love to read books. I own several hundred, and even though I am on a tight budget and don’t have a lot of room for storage/display purposes, I still buy, on average, eight to 10 new books a year.
I don’t read them cover-to-cover as quickly as I used to; before 2010 – the year that my mom’s health took that kamikaze dive that ended with her death five years later – I used to buy a book and depending on its length, author, and/or genre, I’d read it in less than a month. And even after Mom got sick and more of my time and energy was devoted to running the household, I sometimes still had the ability to focus and read a book from beginning to end at a reasonable pace.
The last books that I remember reading “normally” before 2015 are:
- 11/22/63: A Novel, Stephen King
- An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Rick Atkinson
- The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Rick Atkinson
- The Guns at Last Light: The War in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945, Rick Atkinson
- William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily, A New Hope, Ian Doescher
Of course, there were more books that I read “cover-to-cover” at a relatively normal – for me, anyway – pace, but these are the titles that come to mind the quickest. It’s because they are among my favorite books that I purchased back then, but it’s also because they are books that I revisit every so often during the occasional re-read.
“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” ―Diane Duane, So You Want to Be a Wizard
Like my mom, and like her parents before her, not only do I read several books – a mix of fiction and non-fiction – at any given time, nibbling a bit here and noshing a bit there from one book to another, but I also reread many of my favorite books.
“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.” ― Francois Mauriac
I know that there are plenty of people who will read a book all the way through once, maybe twice, then either give it away or donate it to their local public library or sell it to a used bookstore. Either they want to avoid becoming book hoarders, have only a small house or apartment, and don’t have room to spare to keep books they’ve read, or they are content with reading a book – especially if it’s fiction – once and they’re done.
That’s fine – for them.
I’m not wired that way, though. I revisit my older books as if they were friends I have not seen in years or even decades. And although it is usually a question of years between the first read-through of a book (usually, in my case, a non-fiction history title such as Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn) and a re-read, I always notice things – plot points, quotes, and other details – that I missed the first time I read the book when it still had that “new book” smell.
“We live for books.” ― Umberto Eco
I am the same way with movies as I am with books, although it depends on the movie, the genre, the director, or (less commonly for me) the leading actors. I like both Emmanuelle and Casablanca, movies that are as different as night and day in tone, content, and depictions of intimacy, but I’ll watch Casablanca more than I’ll watch Emmanuelle mainly because the former is a movie that speaks more to my heart and mind, while the latter is erotically charged eye candy, but leaves me a bit cold with its characters’ blasé attitudes regarding love, sex, and relationships.
Just as I watch movies like Star Wars because they take me back – at least for their running time of just over two hours – to the late 1970s (or, in the case of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the early 1980s) and my adolescent years, I reread books in my library because there’s always some wisdom they can impart, or I’ll discover new things I missed the first time I read them in the Land of Ago. (The same thing happens with movies, but it’s more common with books, especially the longer novels by Stephen King or the late Tom Clancy, or history books by Cornelius Ryan, John Toland, or Max Hastings.)
So, unless I happen to buy a book – or movie, for that matter – that I do not like for X, Y, or Z reason, it is a “forever” addition to my library. That’s the way my grandfather, grandmother, and mother were. And that’s the way I am, too.
 I lost my paternal grandparents (the ones whose family name, Diaz-Granados, I bear) early in life. My father’s mother died in 1964, sometime before he was killed in an airplane crash in February of 1965. My paternal grandfather lived a few years more; I have a photo that he sent my mom in 1966 to our house in Miami a few months before we moved to Bogota; he had dated it before he mailed it from Barranquilla, which is where Dad’s family was from. I don’t remember what year he died, but I think it was in 1967. I have no memories of either of my dad’s parents, so when I talk about my grandparents, it’s Mom’s mother and father I am referring to.
One thought on “On Books & Reading: The Joy of Reading (and Rereading) Books…It’s in My DNA!”
Nowadays I do most of my reading on my tablet. I’ve been slowly distributing the book sin my possession to various Little Free Libraries I encounter. I just don’t see the sense in keeping them any more since most of my family doesn’t read at all.
Comments are closed.