It started with Harry Potter, this habit I have of indulging in rereads of favorite books in the summer. I don’t think there’s any book or series of books more associated, in my mind, with that season. Because even though the Harry Potter books were very much school year books, summer was when the new ones came out. And while there are many good things in this world, a new Harry Potter book is among the best.
I reread all the books in the series in the weeks leading up to both Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. And then that next summer, I got that familiar ringing of the mental clock. Even though there weren’t any new ones coming out, it was still time to reread Harry Potter. And I have, in the summer, every year since.
I love rereading. Don’t get me wrong – I love reading books that are new to me, too, the delight of discovery, the joy of new words that feel like old friends – but I get a particular pleasure out of rereading. There’s the familiarity, the comfort in knowing that here is something I will love to read, but there is also a particular kind of newness. Even though the words are the same as I read last summer, and the year before that, I am not the same Kat I was before, and so I will see them differently – I’ll find what I need this summer when I read them, and it may not be the thing I needed last year.
I’ve noticed, now that every summer means I return to Hogwarts, that there are other books, other series that I reread at certain points in the year – The Dark Is Rising, in the days right before Christmas, Sandman in late September, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in the late spring. Those books are linked to those times, seasonal rites of passage for me. I don’t reread all of those books every year (life interferes), but I do often, and always seasonally, a kind of literary calendar.
But still, even with those specific books at those specific times, there’s something about the summer that makes it the perfect season for rereading. Maybe it’s the length and warmth of the days, that offers me the illusion that I have more time than I usually do, that I can just keep reading, and the day will linger. Maybe it’s because so much of my life was spent as a student, and then as faculty, and so there’s something about those first few weeks of freedom from the school year that says, yes, this is when you reread Tolkien, or a passel of JD Robb books to clear your head and bring yourself home. There is all this freedom, this time for relaxation, best to fill it with favorite stories.
Or maybe that urge to reread in the summer is one more memory from PastKat, who remembers when summer vacation meant that the days stretched on forever, and weren’t measured in when the next homework was due, but by when the next trip to the library was, and who greeted all her favorites there as if they were just-returned friends. And speaking of friends, there’s someone waiting on Privet Drive that I need to go say hello to.
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