For a great deal of my time growing up, I lived overseas, which meant that I didn’t always have access to as many English-language books as I might have liked. (To be fair to my parents, they bought me a great deal of English-language books to keep up my sister and my English (and because I loved reading) but not have a English library to dip into limited my resources). So, growing up, I did a lot of rereading. Some of my favourite books I must have read a dozen times.
However, for the last few years, I don’t tend to reread near as much as I used to. I think a big factor in that has been working in a bookshop for the last four years – every day some new book would catch my eye, and it was far to easy to buy a new book whenever I closed the back cover of the book I was currently reading. I suddenly started having a pile of books to read sitting on my bedside table, which I never had as a child – it was far too easy to leave the bookshop after work with two, or three, or five books under my arm. My book collection has grown so much I have five bookcases in my house. Books that, up until three or four years ago, I would probably reread once a year, have been a bit neglected.
However, today is the first day of spring, and the weather here in Adelaide has been completely delightful this weekend, and I was inspired to do a bit of spring cleaning yesterday. This involved re-arranging some of the furniture in my house, including a couple of bookcases. To move the bookcases, of course, I had to unload all the books sitting on the shelves, and then pack them back into the bookcase afterwards. This made me come into contact with some books that I haven’t looked at in a while.
I have one particular favourite bookcase. It was build by my great-grandfather if my memory serves me correct, that I painted red during Year 12. When I started at the first bookshop I worked out, I have a fit of alphabetising madness and went through all my books and arranged them by category and author. The category that was arranged in the red bookcase was all my favourite children’s authors. (Now I have too many favourite children’s authors to fit in the bookcase, but it is a nice reminder of which children’s authors I most admired when I was technically, at 17, still a child).
Enid Blyton, of course, lives in this bookcase. So does Laura Ingalls Wilder. Alice lives there, as well as Peter Pan, and Milly-Molly-Mandy, the March sisters and the Pevensie siblings. I feel a bad that I have perhaps neglected these books, devouring new books one after the other. So I think I’m going to go through a bit of a rereading phase. It is fortunate that many of my favourite rereading books are on the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read (or in this case, reread) before I grow up.
After all, as Anne Fadiman said, ‘the reader who plucks a book from her shelf only once is as deprived as the listener who, after attending a single performance of a Beethoven symphony, never hears it again.’