Writer’s Obsession: Old Favorites


I’ve been in a reading mood lately. I have one book I received for Christmas that I’m reading on my own, another for school, and yet another that I’m reading aloud to my husband because he enjoys being read to.

While I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them all — both new and old — there’s nothing quite like returning to an old favorite, which I did today. Between novels, I wanted my students to experience some stories by one of my favorite authors, O. Henry. They read a few on their own at home to be discussed in class, but today I read one aloud to them. “The Last Leaf.”

Opening up my old volume with all of O. Henry’s short stories in it and flipping to the well-worn pages around “The Last Leaf” was like saying hello to an old friend. Though I don’t know each word by heart, I’ve read them so many times that I settle back into their easy rhythm in the same way that I fall back into the old rhythms when sharing coffee with a friend. Certain parts have the same inflection. Behrman’s accent always sounds humorous through my mouth. The last paragraph always makes me choke up, even if I manage not to cry.

I love new books, but there’s nothing quite like returning to an old favorite. Like “The Last Leaf.” Or The Lord of the Rings. Or A City in Winter by Mark Helprin.

Maybe that’s why C.S. Lewis wrote:

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in-between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

The old ones are a different kind of breath of fresh air. They’re familiar, like being welcomed home and given a warm cup of tea and a comfy chair after a long journey. (Even if they do have bittersweet endings, like “The Last Leaf.”)

Do you have any old favorites that you return to every once in a while? How often do you return to your old favorites?


6 responses to “Writer’s Obsession: Old Favorites

  • Rebekah Loper

    I’ve got a few old favorites – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the Silmarillion are of course on that list, as well as Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces. A more ‘modern’ old favorite of mine, though, is the Firebird Trilogy by Kathy Tyers. It’s almost inevitable that if I poke around the bookcase (reorganizing, or just finding a spot for a new book), I will pick those up and end up reading them through again over a few days.

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    2013 was a particularly busy and stressful year, so I did little new reading (except comic books). Lots of rereading, though, and quite a bit of writing.

    Rereading goes into three basic categories, I guess. 1) Old favorites. The Nero Wolfe mysteries, Tolkien (I was just thinking that it’s time to read The Lord of the Rings again :-) ), Sherlock Holmes; 2) Rediscoveries. Books that I read decades ago and which I remember enjoying but don’t remember very clearly. So usually a good time, but a lot of surprises, too. 3) The ones that nobody ever completely “gets” after one reading anyway (Ulysses, Mason & Dixon, etc.

  • C.B. Wentworth

    Jane Eyre will always be my favorite book. Every year, I see it in my students’ hands when it’s assigned in their English classes. They laugh when I get so excited to see it. I think I’ve read it about 6 times and I love it every single time. :-)

    • SB (Bryna) Roberts

      It’s such a great book! It’s always been one of my mom’s favorites, too. (I enjoyed it when I finally read it as well!) I have fond memories of watching the movie version with her while folding laundry. : )

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