The Mark Blog

GROWING WITH BOOKS

I’m the type of reader who always seems to have a favorite book that I keep coming back to. In the second grade it was The Little House. By the time third grade rolled around, I had transitioned to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. In fifth grade I discovered Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. In the course of a year I must have read the book de jour over a dozen times. Easily.

Junior year of high school I became obsessed with The Sun Also Rises, reading it multiple times. At the time, I probably didn’t even understand half of the subtext. But that’s how it is when I set my sights on a certain book. I can’t leave it alone. The following summer I went to visit family on the Dalmatian coast. Waiting for my uncle to wrap up work at the public library, I spotted a copy of Hemingway’s classic, translated into Serbo-Croat, on his desk. In spite of my limited reading and writing skills in my first language, I wanted to give it a try. My uncle thought it was a great idea. It took me almost the entire two months, but I read it in my mother tongue as well.

I used to think that we choose the books we read. We buy or check out a book and read it. We make a choice using our brain. They don’t magically appear on our nightstands. However, I’m beginning to realize that books choose us as well. There’s a bit of serendipity when we find just the right book, one that seems to speak to us at just the right time in our lives. Once I heard someone say that books are alive. At the time I didn’t understand what they meant. After reflection, I’ve come to realize that the pages of our favorite books are infused with energy. Whatever is happening, all of the joy or pain on the page springs to life in our minds. In this way, the books we love are living entities.

Over the course of The Mark program, I’ve discovered a new favorite. It’s William Trevor’s After Rain. In recent months I’ve returned to Trevor’s book to study the technical elements of his writing. How did Trevor manage to tell a story from differing points of view? I reread “Timothy’s Birthday.” How does he end a story with an image? I look to “A Day.” Returning to our favorites allows us to gain greater depth and understanding. And when we reread a favorite, it’s like being reunited with an old friend we always seem to learn something new about.