It’s me again, that thirty-something librarian fellow. I want to pass on an insight I recently that recently illuminated the lightbulb in my brain. Don’t worry, I’m not here to remind you to wear sunscreen, explain to you the concept of water, or otherwise tell you how you should live your life.
The insight is this: being in your teens is a pretty cool age to be reading books. You’re past juvenile novels and have literature as a whole to explore. But what’s really interesting to think about is that the books you read now you’ll be able to read again in 10 to 15 years with a whole new perspective. Or, in my case, I read books when I was a teenager and reading them now provides me with a whole new perspective. So I thought I’d share a pair of the books I read as a teenager and recently re-read as an adult. One I enjoyed at the time, the other not so much.
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemmingway
When I was a teenager I was all about reading fantasy and science fiction. I would groan at having to read anything outside my preferred genre. It didn’t help that names like Hemmingway were so revered—if these authors are so great why are you FORCING me to read them? I distinctly remember falling asleep reading The Sun Also Rises. But I also remember the teacher saying that the last line of the book was one of the most famous in all of English literature.
As my reading tastes have evolved I’ve learned to enjoy the relationships between characters and their subtle interactions, as opposed the setting and driving action that is often found in pulp fantasy. That isn’t to say that all fantasy is void of great characters; rather that as a teenager I was so desperate to read fantasy for fantasy’s sake that I would read bad fantasy and deride anything non-fantasy on principle.
In The Sun Also Rises Hemmingway takes a set of complex characters and deftly weaves an elegant web of envy, ignorance, and misery between the characters. The last line of the book, which I won’t spoil, isn’t just pretty; it manages to encapsulate the entire emotional force of the novel. It is a line that I think is one of the best in all of literature.
Running With The Demon – Terry Brooks
Today we are in the golden age of Young Adult literature, when you enter a library you can find shelves and shelves of YA books. This wasn’t always the case. When I was a teenager books written specifically for teens didn’t really exist (or at least not in the way they do now). I didn’t really see this as a downside, partly because I didn’t know things could be any different, partly because there were still plenty of interesting books to find.
While Running with the Demon issn’t classified as YA, it does share one feature that is common amongst YA books: the main character is a teenager. The book is a contemporary fantasy that takes place in the United States where Nest Freemark is a 14 year-old girl who must learn to use her emerging magical powers in order to protect her town.
When Terry Brooks released Running with the Demon he was already famous for his Shannara series which I loved dearly and which was recently adapted for television as the Shannara Chronicles. Upon publication Running with the Demon was seen as a separate series; however, years later it was revealed to have taken place within the Shannara universe. This revelation made re-reading the book a whole new experience as the second time reading the book meant making new connections to the rest of the Shannara series.
Don’t Wait, Start Today
If you don’t want to wait 10 years to re-read the books you’re reading today, you can always re-read your favourite books from 10 years ago today! This should put you in the midst of your favourite picture books and I bet you’ll be entertained by at least a few of them. Some of my favourites are Where the Wild Things and Yertle the Turtle.
Do you have any favourite books you like to re-read? Let me know in the comments below!