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The Case for Rereading Your Childhood Favorites

By Jason Freely / a couple of weeks ago
The Case for Rereading Your Childhood Favorites
Photo by Arif Riyanto @arifriyanto on Unsplash

Might I recommend rereading the books that shaped you when you were a kid? 

I joined my local library about a year and half ago and gave myself a little tour of all its sections. Before I made my way to the fiction and poetry stacks, I walked through the children’s and young adult sections, admiring so many books I’d never seen before, with their bold titles, flashy cover art, and multicolored spines. Among them I found my childhood favorites. We’re talking the Harry Potter series, The Baby-Sitters Club, The Princess Diaries books. Books by Roald Dahl, Wendy Mass, Sharon Creech, Louis Sachar.

And I went home with a big stack of them. 

I don’t know about you, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become harder for me to get lost in a book. It used to be that I’d spend entire days skimming pages. These days, I get so easily distracted by my phone. Or if I’m tired and want to relax, I find it much easier to unwind and end the day by watching a few episodes on Netflix. I like the idea of reading, but I’d be lying if I said I chose it as often as I’d prefer.

But when I brought home the books that shaped me, I found it so much easier to choose reading. And even better, I found it so much easier to get back that same feeling of being almost addicted to reading: being up at 2 a.m. wanting to keep flipping through pages, and waking up the next morning and choosing to dive right back in. I felt lucky—not only like I was reuniting with an old friend but also like I was reuniting with a version of myself, one that I’d missed very much.

When I brought home the books that shaped me, I found it so much easier to choose reading. . . . I felt lucky—not only like I was reuniting with an old friend but also like I was reuniting with a version of myself, one that I’d missed very much.

Beyond the sheer joy of rereading, I found that I learned so much from revisiting old favorites. For several years, I would reread the entire Harry Potter series each summer. As I got older, I noticed more during each reread and found myself uncovering new ways in which I related to certain characters or understood certain behavior. As I grew, the books grew with me.

Similarly, while rereading The Princess Diaries series for the first time since high school, I noticed so many of my anxious thought patterns mirrored those of our dear Mia Thermopolis. I remember watching her stress over small details and needlessly second-guess herself and thinking, This is why I’m like this. And I remember all the things I used to worry about—finding the best friend group in high school, getting a boyfriend, getting into the right college—and being so amused at what being sixteen looks like in retrospect. It’s nice to see your own growth reflected back at you, and along with it, to see what still makes you you.

It’s nice to see your own growth reflected back at you, and along with it, to see what still makes you you.

There’s a lot to be said for self-reflection. In a time when we are at no shortage for self-care tips and tricks, it’s almost surprising that we aren’t more encouraged to look back into our childhoods for what made us feel joy. But when we do look back, it’s no surprise that the things that taught us joy then—along with peace, clarity, perspective, curiosity, enthrallment, and more—still do so for us now. To be able to look at your youth with the perspective of an adult is such a skill and a gift.

Since that initial library visit, I’ve spent a few months just going through my favorite books. Well beyond a sense of nostalgia, there’s a feeling of tenderness that comes with rereading the books that shaped you as a child—tenderness directed not only toward the material but also toward a younger version of yourself. You remember the way things made you feel when you read about them, and find the way they still make you feel.

If you decide to join me on this journey of rereading, please let me know what the experience looks like for you. Did you learn as much? Did you heal, laugh, grow?

You could also rewatch the movies that shaped you. But the books are so much better.

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for even more reading inspiration? Check out The Complete Wit & Delight 2020 Reading List, which is host to all of Kate + W&D readers’ book recommendations for the year ahead.)

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