I am currently reading Stephen Fry’s latest volume of memoirs entitled “More Fool Me”. Early in the book he wonders why more people don’t reread books, after all, you don’t buy a piece of music and only listen to it once.
I am one of Stephen’s mob. A happy re-reader of books. Not all books. Just those that I consider old friends.
I discovered the Sherlock Holmes canon at age 10. That Christmas my father gave me my first lot of Sherlock Holmes books. A huge paperback compendium of all the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories, complete with Sidney Paget illustrations. That volume fell apart years ago. I currently have a compendium on my Kindle, but still have physical book copies. My current ones have the BBC Sherlock covers (with the exception of “The Valley of Fear” and “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes” that are yet to be issued with Sherlock covers and introductions). I have two copies of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, an extra one was given to me at Christmas. Not complaining. I do tend to wear out Hound quicker than any of the others. It is, after all, my very favourite Holmes story.
I’ve added a couple of recent Sherlock Holmes pastiches to my pile of favourites. Two delightful novels by Guy Adams now nestle next to my ACD paperbacks.
Another novel that I have worn out many copies of over 40 years is “The Hobbit”. My current copy has a charming back view of Martin Freeman on the front cover. I am inclined to keep this copy even when it falls to pieces. Martin does have a cute bum after all.
I have a completely mismatched set of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs. My chosen reading for when I am feeling unwell or just generally miserable. These wonderful books are a guaranteed pick me up for me.
Mary Renault’s books “The Persian Boy”, “The Praise Singer”, and “The Mask of Apollo” have also gone through many volumes. Hard to get brand new, I tend to pick up good quality second hand ones when I see them.
Another one that is hard to replace, but can occasionally be found. is Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragon SInger: Harper of Pern”. I don’t care for the Pern novels per se, but I was enchanted with the story of Menolly at the Harper Hall when I first read the book. My current copy is being carefully treasured as I haven’t seen this one in book shops for a couple of years.
Unable to be replaced, so therefore guarded closer than Smaug’s treasure, are my copies of Margaret Campbell Barnes’ “The King’s Fool” – a novel about Henry VIII’s jester Will Somers, various volumes of Harry Cole’s police memoirs, and my much loved copy of Dinah Lampitt’s “Pour the Dark Wine” which is a novel of the Seymour family. These books are all well over 30 years old and never been reprinted. At least, I can’t find copies. My Dinah Lampitt is falling apart, but nothing will induce me to part with it.
I can’t even get these books on Kindle. I do have some other old favourites on Kindle. “Watership Down” comes to mind. It’s next re-read is earmarked for the trip from Melbourne to London in July. I have a mental note to read it on the Dubai – London leg of the trip, as I hope to sleep most of the Melbourne – Dubai run. I also have a couple of much loved Jean Plaidy novels on Kindle as well. “St Thomas Eve” and “The Queen’s Favourites”. Both of which is also noted down to be reread on this upcoming trip.
I honestly do not know what I would do without my favourite books. Re-reading them is one of the most warm and wonderful pleasures of life.