Old friends like book ends

There are those who think it's silly to read something more than once, but I've found one of the greatest pleasures life affords is reading a book you've loved again. There are many reasons to read something again: perhaps to see if it's as good as you remember, perhaps because you have to teach it, perhaps because you know you'll like it. A post at the Bldg Blog has another reason. Re-reading a book as a good way to measure your own growth, as "a literary way of marking your height in the same old doorsill, seeing how high you now stand."

A converse argument comes from Geoff Dyer, author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. He confesses here that he reads far less as he gets older. My immediate reaction was a sharp intake of breath, followed by mildly outraged clucking and tutting. But as I read on I took his point. Reading shaped his character, and inspired his construction of a life. Now that he's living that life richly and purposefully, books aren't quite as necessary as they were. “Reading, which gave me a life, is now just part of that life, at the moment rather a small part.”

I'd like to have it both ways, but I suspect I'll find myself at Dyer's age still reading, still imagining a life; measuring my height by the books I'm reading for the seventeenth time.