Spring is rolling in. The plants I bought last Summer and mourned in Autumn are showing their first green. Tiny leaves of morrocan mint, a hopeful little kitchen bay, some lavender ready for the brush of bees against it’s new blooms. As the days have rolled into each other recently, I’ve been getting that urge I feel every year to re-read The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beautiful classic was the first book that made me cry. It’s a staple in my life. And every year, it opens my eyes again to the wild heart beating even in dusty cities. It prepares me for Spring. My name means green shoot, or fresh spring blossom in more romantic interpretations. So every Spring I feel closer to myself. I have been learning to embrace every season, but Spring is the season that embraces me.
Once, I read books once and then filed them on my shelves, and didn’t think of reading them again. I bought so many books, returning to an old favourite would flood me with guilt for not spending that precious time delving into something unread. But something snapped in me, around a year ago, maybe a while longer. That compulsion to buy new books faded. I looked at the whole bookcase I had of unread books, and realised it had become crushing. I returned to old favourites more, and stopped letting my reading habits be driven by panic. Tried to, anyway.
I frequently return to Holes by Louis Sachar, a book that weaves everything together so tightly, wasting not a single sentence. A masterclass on writing the way that I’d so like to be able to, sometimes. My favourite characters are a boy who has been misunderstood and dismissed for so long but learns to read and finds a real home, and a woman who only kisses the men she kills. I like to pick up Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, for the strange pages and nerds with the kinds of friendships I long for. I return to The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa, a book so under-appreciated it is printed on demand for orders, but it reads like a beautiful fever dream.
When I’m out of touch with writing, lost in how to bring ideas to my desk and grow them when they do appear, I pick up Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. I could dip into one essay or another but I usually find myself reading it from cover to cover again, caught up in the enthusiasm for words and the craft of writing. Bradbury’s advice always renews my desire to keep creating on the good days and bad days, following my whims with conviction.
Recently I have wanted to reread Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, the Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, maybe a few others whose details have faded in my mind.
My reading life is led by love, not guilt. I’ve donated so many unread books that my TBR is a shelf, not a bookcase.
Maybe this is why I’m feeling myself again, or maybe it’s just the onset of Spring.
Which books do you return to over and over?