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Friday, December 23, 2011

How many times can you read the same book? Do I need a shrink?

I’m a book addict. Seriously. I have the same withdrawal symptoms drug addicts describe: I get depressed, nervous, jittery--you name it--if I don’t have a book to read, either on my bookshelf or on my Kindle. Ever since I got that wonderful reading device, I have been able to feed my addiction and hold the symptoms at bay more easily.

However, there are still times I all of a sudden realize that I AM OUT OF BOOKS, HELP! I just finished reading a book and realize that I have to find a new one. Fortunately, I have a “to be read” list on Goodreads--that’s a really nice feature. If you see a book you like but don’t want to buy it right away, you can put it on that list and access it any time with your computer. Or, my Kindle is in the process of being recharged, or I am somewhere else and don’t have it with me. Or, or, or--it happens. So what do I do?

I REREAD books.

Okay, I know lots of people reread books they really like, so what’s so unusual about it? Well, ahem, I reread books I like many times; we’re talking ten, twenty, thirty times and more. No kidding! That’s how serious my addiction is.

I just put back one of those books I reread I don’t know how many times back on the bookshelf. It’s a novel by Anita Brookner, Hotel Du Lac, a novel that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. Anita Brookner is one those prolific more traditional British authors who write in different genres. Most of her novels deal with flawed human beings who struggle with love, identity, relationships--the stuff that novels have been made of since time immemorial. But she isn’t the only author whose books I keep rereading.

There are many books on my bookshelves I have gone through many times. Interestingly enough, I reread books on my brick-and-mortar bookshelves more often than those on my Kindle. I don’t know why. It may have to do with the fact that those physical books are more visible. I just grab one off the shelf and voila--the evening is saved.

Why do I reread the same books again and again? Of course, I have to like or love the book in the first place. But still, I mean I know the plot, I know exactly what happens. One reason is perhaps that I read books not just as a reader but also as a writer. Each time I read a book again, I discover something new: an image I hadn’t noticed before, an interesting sentence structure, etc. However, that’s only half the reason. I reread books even before I started to seriously write myself.

The only thing I can explain my book fetish is that fact that when I read, I leave this world and enter into the world the author creates for me. I travel to distant places, I slip into different personalities, I experience life through a different sensibility. I get totally absorbed in the book and this happens every time I read the book.

I guess it could be worse; I could be addicted to a more dangerous substance. The only drawback is the fact that I am also an author and have to write books, not just read them. And right now, I’m struggling with my writing and boy; it’s so much easier to read. So I indulge myself until my author voice hits me over the head and I throw the book away and pick up my writing pad. I struggle through a few pages, feel better, toss my pad and--yes, you guessed it--grab the book again.

Am I the only one afflicted with this “disease,” this book fetish? I hope not!

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