the rereadables

I have a small collection of books that I reread whenever the mood takes me. These books have become like old friends to me. Time and time again, I have turned to them for comfort, for reassurance – even for guidance.

I don’t feel this way about all of my favourite books. I adore Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, just to name a random example, and I’ve read it many times…but it’s not one of the books I make a particular habit of re-reading.

These books – I’ll call them “the rereadables” to save time – all have a few things in common. The rereadables are all really short; the kind of books you can read in a sitting or two. And, like a literary first-aid kit, each book is there for a reason; the answer to an unspoken question.

I keep these books, my rereadables, in the tiny shelf on my bedside table. When I can’t get to sleep, for example, I pick up Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I don’t even need to begin at the start – just open the book to a random city, and begin to explore.

I won’t give you a complete list of my rereadables. It seems too personal. And besides – the list is always changing. Some books have fallen out of my life over the years. We’ve grown apart. And I’m always finding new favourites. I read A Room With A View last New Year’s Eve and decided instantly that this would be the beginning of a New Year’s tradition.

This post is about one of the books from the shelf next to my bed. It’s about the book that I’ve reread so many times, I’ve lost count.

But – promise you won’t laugh at me when I tell you what it is, okay?

It’s The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

(Yes, it’s kids’ book. Shut up.)

I first read The Little Prince when I was seventeen and studying French. Actually, it was the first book I read entirely in French. (The second, if you’re interested, was Camus’ L’Étranger). My small class – there were five of us – read The Little Prince together, painstakingly slowly, with our heads awkwardly close to the photocopied pages and our dictionaries waiting beside our elbows.

That was a long time ago. I’ve forgotten most of the French I learned at high school – but this book has remained with me all this time. I have two copies, both in English. The images in this post are from an early edition American copy I was given for Christmas, many years ago.

Every year, I celebrate my birthday by re-reading The Little Prince. It’s become a ritual, a tradition. Between the pages, there are tickets, boarding passes, receipts, sticky notes – the memories of birthdays past.

Why do I love The Little Prince? It’s because it doesn’t blindly idealise childhood. That would be cloying and ridiculous. It’s much more profound than that.

The Little Prince has a lot to say about children, and, yes, adults – and “grown-ups” are frequently criticised…but, at the same time, Saint-Exupéry’s narrator is proof that one can become an adult and still retain something of what it means to be a child.

I adore Saint-Exupéry’s beautiful illustrations. Yet in every illustration of the little prince himself, he is different in some way, as if our narrator is struggling to recall what he looked like – a constant reminder that retrospection is essentially flawed. Saint-Exupéry dwells on the impossible, the unattainable, the invisible – and that’s what draws me, time after time, to this book.

The Little Prince portrays childhood as a country from which we, as adults, are forever exiled – but, at the same time, The Little Prince doesn’t wallow in the past – it gives us a new perspective on the future. It helps us conceptualise adulthood in an entirely new way.

Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince in exile during the Second World War, and it’s often when I’m in a state of metaphorical war and exile that I long to re-read this book. When the adult world is all just a little too much, this book picks me back up, brushes the dust from my clothes and sends me on my way again, relaxed, revived and refreshed.

I’ve read The Little Prince so many times because every time I read it, it’s a completely different book. It speaks to me in an entirely new way. Yes, this is true of all books, but it’s especially true of the books I keep beside my bed – my rereadables. As I’ve changed over the years, these books have changed with me. They are, quite simply, my therapy.

I’d love to know if you have a particular book you reread all the time. Or maybe you have a little collection of rereadables, like me? Which books do you keep beside your bed? The books you love the most…or just the books you’re reading right now?

a year in books

My poor, bookish heart feels all twisted and tangled and tattered, dear reader

Selecting a top ten list for the year 2011 was particularly difficult, because I’d read so many novels I adored last year. So many books, and I’d decided to list only ten favourites? Pure madness!

There’s no way I’ll be able to live with myself if I didn’t write a follow-up post with a few more of the novels that made 2011 so memorable for me…

Honourable mentions, if you like. Allow me a moment to unburden my heart…

Continue reading “a year in books”

book to the future’s favourite books for 2011

I’m writing this post sitting in a shady spot in the backyard of my parents’ house.

Here, in the house where I grew up, in my tiny little hometown in country Victoria, I’ve finally managed to shake off the languid dolour of the past year. When I woke on Christmas morning to the sound of rain on the metal roof, the year somehow seemed complete.

This is it. My final post for 2011. The presents have been opened and the food enjoyed. There’s one very important thing left for me to do before the year ends: post my favourite books for the year.

Writing this list has been a delicious kind of agony. I’ve read so many books I’ve loved. Choosing only ten to name as my favourites for the year has been difficult – but, finally, I’ve managed to settle on a definitive list. And, for no particular reason, I’ve illustrated it with pictures taken in my parents’ garden. Just because.

Continue reading “book to the future’s favourite books for 2011”

saying goodbye to harry

To be honest, I don’t remember much about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I read the novel in a single, frenzied sitting, barely able to concentrate on the words themselves for the anticipation that underlined every sentence in invisible ink.

As I furiously turned the pages, I couldn’t help but think about all the other readers around the world, turning the same pages. How beautiful, I thought to myself, in a brief, ecstatic pause between chapters. How amazing that, right now, thousands, maybe even millions of people across the world were united in the same, simple act: reading a book.

It’s more than likely that this hyper-consciousness was a side effect of staying awake until three in the morning. But of all the books I’ve ever read, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would have to be the most memorable reading experience of my life.

That night, it felt like I was a part of something. Then it was over. I closed the cover, smiled and said a quiet goodbye to Harry.

Goodbye, but not farewell. As one thing ends, in time, something else begins. The next time I see Harry and Hermione and Neville and Luna again will be in many (many) years’ time, when it’s time for me to force – ahem – encourage my own future children* to read the Harry Potter books for themselves.

I simply can’t wait. The next time I step into Hogwarts will be all the more magical – because I’ll have company.

Forget what the movie posters tell you. It all ends. Nothing is ending, really. It’s just waiting.

Movies come and go. But books are forever.

Movie poster sourced from Google Images.

* What if my future theoretical children aren’t avid readers? Um. That is not an option…