I have a confession to make.
I seldom reread books.
Okay, if you know me, and you know how much I read, this would definitely come as a surprise. “How the hell can Martin not reread books? How can he speak with so much authority on a single book if he has probably read it just once?” you may ask. And those are very good questions.
Questions that, as of the moment, I have no definite answers for. See, I love reading. There’s nothing I’d rather do all day long than read. I had a video gaming phase in my life, and I currently watch a truckload (this is one of my favorite metaphors) of TV shows, but given a choice, I would like to vegetate on my bed with a pile of good books.
Okay, maybe a tall-backed armchair with an iconic old boys’ club side table would work just as nice, but when it comes to a full reading experience, nothing beats the Japanese way of reading. That is, lying down sideways on the tatami (or in my case, a bed) with the book spread out on the floor next to you, head elevated on your arm, and your legs crossed. I would like to call this the Figure 4 of reading.
But that, of course, doesn’t address the issue here: Why don’t I reread my books? Let me try to gather my thoughts on that, and provide a somewhat decent answer.
I just don’t. I find it tiresome. You know, unless I really, really, really like the book. Or if it was required reading, which hasn’t been a reality ever since I left school.
See, I have a long reading list, and it keeps on getting longer every time I set foot inside bookstores. If I wander into a Booksale, the list grows exponentially longer, since those books are really cheap. Back when I was a kid, when I had fewer books to go through, I wore the spines through with constant rereading. With the advent of college, though, and a more personal flow of income that I could use at will (I started writing for cash during my freshman year), I was able to start buying books for myself.
And that’s when my reading rate spiked, at the cost of my rereading rate. I grew my library, slowly but surely, starting with literary required reading at the time (Murakami and Gaiman, for starters, then moving on to Vonnegut and Eco), but my girlfriend at the time would introduce me to pulp fiction and the golden age of sci-fi through the aforementioned Booksale.
Have you ever wandered into a thrift bookstore, and found yourself overwhelmed by the amount of books you want to buy? That’s what Booksale is, and the thing is, their prices are so good that you can actually buy the books you’ve got on a pile after two hours in the shop. I’ve experienced coming up for air with five books in my arms from Booksale, flushed with excitement at the discovery of these rare (says the elitist in me) finds, and I would bring them to the counter without a care for the price. If I would come up short, I’d have the books I’m least interested in reserved under my name, and come back for them in three days. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This is, by no means, a promoted post for Booksale, although I’d happily endorse them anytime of the day, if they needed what little celebrity power (if any at all) I brought to them. But you can see how this would lead to an explosion of books in my library. I count at least ten books that I have yet to read in my shelf, and I don’t think that number’s going to go down anytime soon. And the thing is, while I love reading, there are very few authors I’d willingly reread. I think that’s material for another post.
So what kind of reader does this make me? Not a very good one, admittedly. I can remember the general outline of every book I’ve read in my life, and if they were especially well-written, I can even remember how I felt after reading them, enough to be able to recommend them to anybody interested in the title. But don’t expect me to quote characters from the book, because my recall isn’t anything to be remotely proud of.
This doesn’t, won’t, and will never, keep me from reading, though. In my opinion, not being able to retrieve lines from books at will is not a handicap if you can paraphrase, and that’s a skill I’m somewhat better at. And anyway, who cares if I’m no source of quotable quotes? I don’t read for the benefit of the public!