Hi! I’m bookforager and JonBob has very kindly given me leave to take over this little portion of his blog today as part of his first blogiversary celebrations. Thank you so much for having me over! Now, before I start blathering please join me in raising a glass to JonBob and wishing him a very HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY and many more to come. Woo!
My husband and I love junk shops. And second-hand bookstores, and charity shops. In a world seemingly obsessed with the new, the bright and the shiny, we must have some kind of jumble-sale gene because we both get far more of a kick out of rummaging through piles of old tat than visiting pristine stores in which goods are sorted by size, colour and category. And when it comes to books I could blather on forever about the beauty of preloved volumes, with their comfortably broken-in spines, thumb-softened pages and scumbled edges, but in a Herculean feat of self-control I am instead here to witter about some of the joys to be had from reading older titles; those books for whom, alas, the publicity train has now passed on, who find they must now fend for themselves in the cold shadows of their newer, more sparkly brethren.
Joy #1: Recommendations
One of the delights of belonging to the blogging community is that you can get recommendations for absolutely anything. Fancy reading something about space monkey pirates? Someone out there will know just the book for you. Maybe you’ve just read and loved the latest steampunk sensation, someone else will tell you about a book published twenty years ago that your book was riffing on. Recommendations can only ever deepen and broaden our reading. More importantly perhaps, they create connections between us, lines of communication, and they keep the conversation – between books, between eras and between readers – alive.
Joy #2: Anticipation
Sure, there’s an element of anticipation in all reading, but what I’m thinking of here is that very specific feeling of excitement and expectation that comes from having read your very first book by an author and knowing that there is a back catalogue to explore. I am currently reading my second Tim Powers book and am feeling this heady pleasure right now. The Anubis Gates bowled me over, but it could have been a fluke, his one great book in an otherwise mediocre oeuvre. Now, reading Hide Me Among the Graves I am practically bouncing up and down with glee because I’m loving it and at the same time anticipating how much fun I’m going to have reading the rest of his work. There should be a word for this feeling.
Joy #3: Discovery
Is this not every bookwyrm’s dream? To discover that unknown, unheard of slice of awesomeness in a bookstore, drawn to it as if by an invisible force or perhaps by its truly terrible cover, and have it become your favourite book of all time? To guard the secret of it, maybe, and only share your knowledge of it with those you deem worthy?
OK. Just me then.
Joy #4: The Great Winnowing
Surely we all do this to some extent: letting the world do some of the work for us when it comes to choosing what to read? Yes, I’m seeing all those new releases and drooling over them along with everyone else, but due to money, time and attention span I couldn’t possibly read them all, even if I only read brand spanking new books all the time. So I wait. I buy a few, I make tbr wish-lists that run on for pages, and I keep an eye on what my bloggy friends are saying about the rest. And I see what survives. I’ll go back to those wish-lists twelve months later, or twenty-four, and see which books are still getting mentioned in lists and tags and suchlike, which books have won awards or sparked the most discussion. (I also like to see which books make it onto my lists multiple times because I’ve forgotten that I listed it previously … these are nearly always guaranteed purchases: why did I keep forgetting this title? Was it aliens? Am I the unwitting victim of a mind-control experiment? I should probably read it and find out what They don’t want me to know!)
Joy #5: Serendipity
And sometimes I believe a book does just show up at the right time. This might sound like wishy-washy nonsense to you, but I came across many of my most important, favourite reads not when they were new and shiny, but when I needed them. The Hobbit and I crossed paths when I was about nine years old, bullied mercilessly and hating school, and unsure of how I was supposed to fit in. I picked it up because it had a dragon on the cover and reading it was like being given a doorway to a magical elsewhere. It was respite in paperback. The books that cross my path, no matter their age or condition, so often come at just the right time, when I’m most open to the story they have to tell me. It’s a pretty great feeling, even if it is all in my head.
Joy #6: Rereading
Last, but not least, there is the delight and comfort of rereading. I know this isn’t a popular choice. I know there are so many books out there that rereading can be seen as time wasted, but, for me at least, rereading offers the unmitigated pleasure of returning to an enchanted place (and armchair travel is not to be sniffed at in this world of pandemic and political horror), reacquainting myself with beloved characters, and often seeing things I didn’t see before.
What about you, dear reader? Do you read older works, or are you all about the new? Do you think books are in conversation with each other and with the world, or do you think they each stand alone? And (I dread to ask) … do you reread?