After quickly scanning through my small collection of books at home, I realise that I had left some of my favourite books back in my dorm room. My searching eyes land on the neat pile of books I have already read and I let out a long sigh. ‘No option but to re-read one of these then’, I tell myself. Settling comfortably on the terrace with a battered copy of Pride and Prejudice, I throw myself into the world of the Bennets in the 19th century. Soon, I’m chuckling in amusement or cooing at Mr Darcy’s confession, skimming through the pages sometimes to read only those parts that I know I am looking for. I picture myself as Lizzy, learning and unlearning what she thought she knew about herself and Mr Darcy, falling in love and admitting it and I sigh, wistfully this time, like the protagonist in a medieval play who longs for love. I can almost feel the lights on my face and hear the audience cheer me on. The things books can make you feel are truly incredible, I conclude with a gentle wave of my hand.
As I read, I notice that the sun has begun its westward journey, dipping further down the horizon. And I begin to think.
I think – there is something very comforting about picking up a book that you’ve read a million times. There is familiarity, like an old cosy blanket to snuggle in, like the comforting gaze of a loved one or like a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. There are no sudden oh-my-god-how-did-this-happen moments that take you by complete surprise, nothing you haven’t already read – and almost completely memorised – because you’ve read the same book more times than you can count. And yet, each time you read it, you discover a new layer of meaning, maybe because you read the same words in a different light. It’s almost as if the writer wanted you to come back again and look harder, to find something that seemed obvious but wasn’t, something that you didn’t pick up the first time or the next 10 times you read it before this.
As boring as it may sound, any bibliophile will tell you that a book worth reading a second time is a great book, because not only did it pique your interest the first time, you went back to it the second (or third, or fourth) time knowing full well that no essential elements in the story were going to change. And that if you came back, over and over again, it wasn’t because you didn’t have better books to read, it was because you wanted to relive the same experience that this one book created. That, I would say, is pure magic only literature could create.
So I read on, till the sun dipped out of sight, till the last streaks of light were blanketed by purple-black clouds, till there was only the moonlight to guide my eyes.