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?