Twice Upon a Time: 3 Ways You Can Treasure Rereading a Book
Updated: Mar 18
As the lyrics unfold, the singer contrasts his feelings of love with things that must come to an end.
A rainbow, a river and a highway all have a stopping point. The one thing in the song that resembles love? A story.
At first, a story seems to be one of the experiences that will end—when the last page is turned, there's nothing more to be told. But the next words go on to explain that love is a treasure, like a story, that will continue on forever.
I think that explains to me why I love rereading so much. When a story comes to an end and the last page is turned, it is not truly over.
For the best stories, there is a certain feeling that keeps me thinking about the book long after I've "finished" it. I know how it all turns out, but there are other things that make me look forward to going back.
Here are the three joys I've found in rereading a book:
1. Rereading to Treasure the Writing
There are authors who use words like a painter wields a brush. The word pictures they create seem to change and shift with additional meaning at each reading. A writer like G.K. Chesterton plays with words and ideas in a way that makes it fun and exhilarating to try to grasp more of his insights.
G.K. Chesterton accepts the present of a dandelion
(Photo Credit: G.K. Chesterton Library)
Authors you'll find falling into this category, in addition to Chesterton, are:
Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose (one of the most emotionally moving stories I've read).
C.S. Lewis (both his fiction and non-fiction always have more to tell you).
Henry Beston: The Outermost House is as close to poetry as prose can become.
2. Rereading to Treasure Favorite Characters
When did you first discover Anne of Green Gables?
I found the Anne stories by L.M. Montgomery in my 20s when a wonderful librarian (and my boss!) recommended them to me. To her credit, she didn't express shock that I hadn't already read the series. The only explanation that comes to me now: I bypassed quite a few childhood classics to read nature books and stories by P.G. Wodehouse, Miss Read and O. Henry.
As an adult, after I finished reading all the books in the Anne series, I didn't want it to end. I read through LMM's short stories, hoping to find another mention of Anne and a place called Green Gables.
It reinforces a favorite theory—the best children's books have just as much impact on you as an adult as they do when first read as a child.
Here are a few of my favorite characters to revisit that you might like to meet (or meet again):
Father Tim in Jan Karon's Mitford series.
Young veterinarian James Herriot, his boss Siegfried Farnon and a host of memorable characters in the Yorkshire Dales.
3. Rereading to Treasure the Elusive Feeling of Childhood
Another song that comes to mind, sometimes played during the Christmas season, is the surprisingly haunting "Toyland." The lyrics say that when "once upon a time" and childhood are left behind, you can never return to them again. I have to disagree.
Painting by Helen Allingham
There is one window that makes it possible for us to return to "once upon a time" and that window is a book. Picking up a childhood favorite as an adult, however, can be troubling. I wonder:
What if it's not the same? I'll ruin that special memory I had of the story.
I found that these books, for the most part, never miss a beat for an adult. Childhood classics still take me to a place of wonder—warmth and safety in spite of challenges and danger—and just that cozy feeling I associate with children's books. They still touch a chord of memory, and I find that the memory is as clear as a melody that I've never left behind.
If there is a bittersweet feeling mixed in now from experiences I've had as an adult, it adds to the depth of the story somehow, rather than taking away from it.
Whether I first read them as a child or adult, here are some of the stories that can always renew their place in my heart:
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: one of the best books I've found on the wonder of reading.
The Velvet Room is a surprising and wonderful book I never wanted to read again. Here's what I experienced when I finally did open its pages for the second time: A Most Mysterious Room.
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” ~ C.S. Lewis
The storyteller, C.S. Lewis
Linda Borromeo is the author of Mystery Shores, a novel of secrets for children ages 10 and up. She hopes adults will also enjoy this historical novel of friendship, conflict and hope.
Linda lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, the setting of her story.