There are times when I pick up a book, perhaps a classic or a title published a decade or two ago and I wonder why I waited so long to read that book. The book has likely been on my reading list for a long time, remaining in place as new releases budge in line.
I am often thankful, I waited to read a book now, rather than in my 20s or 30s because my perspective has changed. My life experiences have altered my understanding of the world, impacting my interaction with the book. Sometimes, upon finishing a book, I am shocked I waited so long to read it. Such was the case with “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston. A couple of years ago I listened to the book on audio while mowing the lawn. I did not want to stop listening to this incredible story that was so beautifully written. To extend my listening I ended up mowing our lawn and the neighbor’s lawn.
Perhaps I was in my 40s when I decided to read John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run.” I encountered Updike at the right time of my life. I met the book with a little life perspective and an appreciation of this writer’s talent. John Updike’s writing, for me, evokes a feeling of autumn.
Margaret Atwood’s, “A Handmaid’s Tale,” made its way to the top of my reading list in my early 20s. The perfect time in my life to be informed by this genius work. When the television series came out, I felt like I was being reunited with an old friend.
I was also in my 20s when I read several of Jon Hassler’s books. If you have never read a book by Jon Hassler, I encourage you to move “Simon’s Night” or “Grand Opening” toward the top of your reading list.
I began reading Virginia Wolf in my teens and have periodically reread the books “A Room of One’s Own,” “Misses Dalloway,” and “To the Lighthouse.” As a matter of fact, I am sort of in the mood for a re-read of a couple of these titles.
Keep in mind, reading a book for a second or even third time allows you to experience a book throughout the continuum of your life and measure perhaps how your thoughts or feelings about it change. It is also likely you will glean something from the text that you missed during your first reading.
Re-reading a book also moves newer, never before read books further down your list, but no worries, the books will wait without complaint.
I read “Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak perhaps 20 years ago. I love the movie and desperately wanted to read the book. I knew I would need a great deal of focus to clearly understand the history, the complex relationships and how they all intertwined. The scenery in the films (I have seen two different versions) is beautiful, I assure you that is not lost in the book. The book is beautifully written and the imagery is vivid. It is a perfect winter read.
Recently I read “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book has been on my to-read list for a very long time. After reading only a few pages I said aloud, “this is a fantastic book”. While I may have wished I had read it years ago, I think reading it in my mid-50s was the perfect time to experience this story.
Sometimes I forget I want to read a book until I encounter it at the library. Maybe someone is checking it out or I am checking it in. Perhaps I run across it on a shelf while looking for something else and I decide the time has come to read the book. I hope you have time to browse the library’s shelves and perhaps run across a book that you always wanted to read, but haven’t yet had the chance. Maybe now is a perfect time.
Gail Hedstrom, Director, Fergus Falls Public Library