Monday, September 13, 2004

In praise of favorite books

Recently I’ve found my entire life put on hold while I read, for the 5th or 6th time, books by one of my favorite authors. Books, like food, go in cycles with me. I’ll munch on toast at odd hours of the day for a month and then, for no reason at all, I’ll stop craving toast and start longing for apples. It’s the same with books. For weeks on end I’ll pick up one Jane Austin after another until I get enough and move on to someone else.

I’m currently in a Dorothy L. Sayers phase. If you haven’t read her, please do. She’s one of the great stars of British detective fiction. But don’t get all snobby about dead Lords in libraries and maiden lady detectives. Sayers was a scholar, one of the first generation of women to get a university education in Britain (Sommerville College, Oxford). Her novels are not only interesting mysteries, they are also well written, highly literate books. I especially love the ones involving her detective Lord Peter Wimsey and his eventual wife, the wonderful Harriet Vane. Please do read one or two (start with Strong Poison, for the first of the Harriet Vane books).

But what never ceases to amaze me is the pleasure I can receive from a book that I’ve read multiple times. There’s something so reassuringly delightful about letting a book fall open to its favorite place, running your eye along passages that you’ve all but memorized and savoring once again a special scene or memorable bit of dialogue.

For a cynical atheist like I, a favorite old book is one of life’s blessings.

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