Book nostalgia

Sigh. I don’t know if it’s the time of year, or my frame of mind, but I’m currently wracked with book nostalgia.

Book nostalgia, in case you’ve never experienced it, is a sentimental longing for books previously read. Those books that speak to the soul, for various reasons. Familiar books. Comforting books. Books about certain themes, or with a certain style or tone to them. My book nostalgia has arrived with the spring and I am deeply in the grip of it.

It began with the beautiful light, which made me think of The Enchanted April. ‘It’s almost April,‘ I thought. ‘I must read it again. I always read it in April.

I do not always read it in April, but it felt true.

And with my mind enraptured with wisteria and castles, the wonder if Italy in the spring, I also found myself urgently desiring to re-read The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, because like castles and wisteria, it’s an enchanting book. Enchanting but strange, like a twisted but compulsive dream.

And then I started thinking of The Body Artist and the compulsive, obsessive, attention to detail. The way the whole book reads like a dance, but a cold dance. A dance of clinical precision.

I think about Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, with its melancholy, its saudade, its beautiful, soul-ripping beauty. Which is so like mono no aware – the melancholy beauty of things passing – which Cees Nooteboom uses so beautifully in his brief novella Mokusei another book I’ve been thinking about on and off for days.

And I think I am yearning for books which I know are somehow rapturous, transcendent, which will lift me out of the everything else – the mundanity, insanity, of Brexit, of Donald Trump, of ‘Russian interference’, of ‘fake news’ and depressing real news, of tragedy and racism and mass murder, of knife crime, of the missing and the sad and the desperately poor, of our ruined world, choked in plastic.

Nostalgia is a disease because it carries us away from what is real into a world in which everything is comfortable and comforting, even the uncomfortable and the discomforting, because it is familiar.

Then again, the new is not necessarily better and there is much to be said for those books which stir the soul in a way which is sure, which speaks to something of our experience that remains true whilst all else seems to be shifting and unsure.

Maybe it is just the weather. I wonder. Does anyone else suffer from book nostalgia? Which books do you crave?

About bookbii

I'm an ordinary woman living an ordinary life in an ordinary place, and it is quietly wonderful
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12 Responses to Book nostalgia

  1. What a thoughtful post. I love The Body Artist too. Sometimes I think that I want to reread books to try and recapture the person I was when I first read them.

  2. I do indeed suffer from this, often in times of stress. I think maybe it’s a need to return to something known, where you’re already aware of what the outcome is, when the world around you seems quite mad…

    • bookbii says:

      It’s good to know I’m not alone. I do think stress is a factor, but there’s also something about depth of experience which comes from revisiting. It is pretty mad out there, though 😀

  3. This was so lovely and thoughtful!

  4. JacquiWine says:

    I think I’m probably more prone to film nostalgia than the bookish variety, but it’s certainly a concept that resonates with me. Sometimes I just want to experience something familiar and engaging, even though the storyline is a given. There’s something comforting about the familiarity, the sense of knowing exactly what’s going to happen – especially when the world around us is so unstable. Lovely post.

    • bookbii says:

      Thanks Jacqui. I experience film nostalgia as well, though in my case it’s not quite as strong as the bookish variety. That being said, I’ve had a very strong urge to watch The African Queen recently…and Godzilla movies! Godzilla movies are less crazy than the real world (and much more fun).

  5. This was a thoughtful, delightful piece, Belinda! I do suffer from book nostalgia, particularly when it comes to books I read during my childhood and early teenage years. Under the influence of a local librarian, I used to read a lot of nineteenth-century novels back then, and I seem to be coming back to those lately. I feel that these stressful times have pulled me back to those novels; perhaps, I am in search for the comfort I felt reading them…

    • bookbii says:

      Thanks Juliana 🙂 I also get nostalgic for books I read as a teenager, especially Jane Eyre (still breaks my heart) and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence which is, I think, an even better read as an adult. I do think there’s a lot about comfort in seeking out old friends, but depth too. I often learn more than I did on the last reading.

  6. SimplyMe says:

    I do reread books for a variety of reasons, most often because I realize there is something of value (a perspective on life) that I want to revisit; sometimes, because of the season (as in your April comment), and sometimes for shear pleasure (as in Susan Cooper’s works). I like your comment in a reply above that rereading can be viewed as “seeking out old friends”, but also that one often derives more from a second or more rereading.

    • bookbii says:

      The perspective on life is definitely one of the things I like to revisit in books; there are certain books which I know ground me and those that challenge me, those which support or offer guidance, those which encourage me to see beyond my limitations. And pleasure, of course. It is strange when I think about it, that such pleasure can be gained by revisiting the carefully weighed thoughts of another; inspiration, too. I am still in the grip of nostalgia – so many books I’d like to re-read: To the Lighthouse and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek are two which have sprung to mind recently. But I am in the grip of a long book (900 pager) and that might be why. A certain restlessness, perhaps.

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