The spine is cracked, pages stained, edges a little bit ripped and bent from being shoved into backpacks or bags time and time again. You know the beginning, middle, and end like the back of your hand. You can practically close your eyes and recite the narrative word for word. People know not to ask you about your favorite book because you’ll go on hour-long rants about why this is the best thing you ever read and why they should read it too. And they’d better not get you started on your favorite characters because you have a list of their virtues and their flaws and why, sometimes, they are underrated.
Most people don’t understand why you’d want to read a book over and over again. It’s the same story, the same characters. You already know the plot, the twists and turns of the narrative that the first time you read them made you set the book down and take a minute to compose yourself before you could keep on reading. There are no more surprises, nothing new and exciting to captivate your attention once more. What they don’t realize, is that that is not true. The first time you read a book, you read it for plot. After that you read it for everything else. You can read a book a hundred times and find new details every time. Details that you glossed over the last time when you were more focused on something else.
Even with all the new little things you can find, rereading your favorite book is like coming home. Try it one day when you are tired and stressed, that’s what I like to do when I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Crack open the first page and start reading, out loud or in your head, it doesn’t really matter. You might not notice it at first, but your shoulders relax, your jaw unclenches, and you let out a breath you didn’t know you were holding in. The comfort of reading something so familiar will clear your head, and that’s not even the best part.
People around you can tell you how much you’ve changed, but it’s not really something that you can keep track of yourself. You don’t notice it happening and you probably won’t notice it for a while after it happens. Unless you’re reading your favorite book again. Even if it’s only been a couple of months since you’ve last read it, your perspective is different today than it was then. You’ll find that you’ll understand a character that you used to hate more, or maybe you’ll question the protagonist’s decisions for the first time. In a sense, it’s like reading a whole new book.
I own so many copies of Pride and Prejudice I can’t keep track of all of them. I have it in English, Spanish, French, I have a copy on my phone, a copy in my tablet, and I even have a copy in a collection of Jane Austen’s works. I get just as excited getting a new copy of it than I did when I first read the book. The first time I read it, I was angry at Darcy for the way he acted in the beginning. I thought Elizabeth could do much, much better than him. After reading Pride and Prejudice several times, not to mention the many times I’ve seen the BBC adaptation of it (hello Colin Firth), I’ve come to appreciate Darcy more as a character.
Darcy’s not perfect by any means, he still needs to work on how he acts when he meets new people, but now that I am not as caught up in the narrative and in Elizabeth’s emotions as much I understand why he was the way that he was. Part of it is also that I’ve grown up a little from when I was sixteen. I’ve learned not to be so quick to judge people, and that sometimes first impressions can be very misleading.
If you’re stressed with the start of the semester, the beginning of our last year for many of us, my suggestion is, go home. Even if you read your favorite book last week, even if you haven’t had a new favorite book since sixth grade. Go home and relax for a bit. You might learn something new about yourself.