The Reading Life

Would you want to erase your memories of favorite books?

Last month, I saw the attached photo about books and memories. I immediately began thinking of the books I’d want to experience for the first time. These included my favorite books from childhood, the Harry Potter series, A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, among endless others.

But when I though about it further, I’m not so sure.

If I erased my memory of, say, A Little Princess or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, wouldn’t I then also lose what I learned from reading those books. Wouldn’t I lose my memories of what they made me think about and how they helped me grow?

It’s like traveling through time: We might think, maybe I could go back and “fix” some things. But probably, we’d just end up creating a whole other set of problems. So unless I could time travel back to myself at age seven reading A Little Princess for the first time and live life all over again, I’m not sure I’d like to have my memory of reading the book wiped after all. Except that doesn’t make sense either because then I wouldn’t remember that I was re-reading it for the first time, would I? So what would be the point, really?

I guess what I’m saying is, the only way we can move is forward. So I’m going to do my very best to treasure the beautiful moments knowing they’re *once in a lifetime* experiences. I can’t experience them again for the first time, but I can continue to be inspired by them.

On a dreary day, literally or figuratively, I can dip into my favorite books, and I’ll know just where to find them. Not literally. My bookshelves are a mess. But I can dip into my memories of how a book made my heart feel light and my soul feel nourished with hope for humanity. I can dive back into those pages knowing I’ll meet a trusted friend and mentor there. 

How about you? Are there books you return to for inspiration, comfort, hope?

4 thoughts on “Would you want to erase your memories of favorite books?

  1. I don’t think I’d want to erase my memories of reading my favourite books. I know I’ve sometimes gone back over the books I’ve rated and reconsidered how good it actually was. I’m afraid if I were to reread it, I wouldn’t find the same enjoyment.

    The other problem would be that with my current world experiences, would I find different meaning in the book? Unless I was to go back in time to read it, I think all my “new” history would interfere with how I had read that book in that point in time.

    1. Yes! That’s such an excellent point. We’ll read the same book differently at different times in our lives. I’ve been rereading some of my favorites from childhood in recent years, and they’re not the same books I read as a kid. It’d be disturbing if they were!

  2. I’ve seen this quote before, and while I get it, I’ve always thought it was a bit silly, for the reasons you – as well as commenter Sam – point out. There may be nothing like that first time discovering and falling in love with what will be a favorite book, but then again, of course, growing with a book, coming back to it at different points in your life, is also something so special. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks so! 🙂

    As for comfort books, I share (at least) two of yours “A Little Princess”, which is also my all-time favorite book in general, and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”. I also always have a copy of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris on hand, and some Lewis Grizzard anthologies, which often make me laugh (even though I don’t agree with many of Grizzard’s opinions) and definitely take me back to a very different time in my life. Fairy tale anthologies are also a big comfort favorite – sometimes I just want to be swept away to a totally magical world, you know?

    1. Definitely, I do know that feeling. Harry Potter is one of those comfort reads for me partly for that reason, that it takes me to a magical world. Plus I have so many happy memories associated with reading the series. As I’m sitting here thinking about this, I’m thinking there’s a sort of fetishizing of *first* experiences that’s kind of weird. Like you said, being able to come back to something again and again and still find magic there is pretty special in itself.

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