I have a bookshelf full of books—most of them I’ve only ever read once. This is always a cause of anxiety for me. I want to have the time to enjoy the simple pleasure of re-reading a book. It happens all too rarely. Most of the books I own I only vaguely remember. I recommend them to friends based on feelings I remember having while reading them or the amount of lines I can see that I underlined (yes, I’m one of those people, who writes in her books). I often wonder if it matters that I read a book if I hardly remember a thing about it. And why do I own all of these books if I’m never going to have the time to read them again?
I give myself various answers to these questions. I love to loan my books to friends (only with full recognition that I might never get the book back and that’s okay). I like to remind myself of what I read. Often times there is even a pleasant story attached to the time I read a certain book. Sometimes this, more than anything else, is what stands out to me. As an example, I have a very clear and distinct memory of reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I read it while studying abroad in Russia (although I read it in English) in the summer. I devoured it in long chunks on the long commutes from my dorm into the center of Moscow and while lying out in the sun at various parks in the city.
I remember loving that book. I read it in only a few days. But if you were to ask me a day ago if I remember anything about it, my response would’ve been staggeringly simple—no more than what you would find on the back of the book cover. Somehow, however, I have managed to carve out the time to re-read this wonderful novel. I’ve only just started, but I love the possibility of rediscovering why I loved this book and maybe having the ability to describe it to others and understand it in a deeper way.
There’s nothing like a first read, but there’s nothing like a second either. They are rare for me, but I never regret them.