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Chapter 11 - A First Time For Everything

In looking back on life choices I've made over the years, I realized that, even if I could have do-overs, I probably wouldn't. Every choice, good or bad, up to now has brought me to where I currently am. And to be honest, I'm in a pretty good place.

This is not necessarily true when it comes to books. While I reread my favorites periodically, sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and read them for the first time again. There is something so magical in experiencing a favorite (or what becomes a favorite) book for the first time. The sense of joy and satisfaction you feel when you read something in the book and you just close it and think about what was written or when you finish the book and can't quite get the characters out of your head for days. In some cases the book speaks to your heart, at other times it is because the author has said things through his or her characters that you've always felt.

So, this is my list of do-over books, ones that I wish I could read again for the first time.

Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearch - This Caldecott Medal winner was recommended to me by a librarian. She was familiar with the types of books (historical fiction, relationship, and a little bit of sci-fi) books I was reading and picked this for me. It is the story of Tom who has to go to his aunt and uncle's house in the country when his brother gets sick. One night the clock strikes 13 and Tom finds a beautiful garden in the backyard along with a new friend. This book, no doubt, strengthened my fascination with historical fiction and time travel books!

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I first read Gone With the Wind in 9th grade as it was a Christmas present from my parents. My first re-read was in 11th grade as a supplemental read to classic Southern fiction. While the book has come under contemporary controversy, it features a strong woman who will do anything in her power to keep her family and home.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk - I think this was probably the first World War II book I read, having previously been lured by early American history and the Civil War. The book starts in 1939 and ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The narrative is interspersed with German accounts of historical events by a fictional German general. While most of the book centers on Victor (Pug) Henry, a naval officer and his family, it helps the reader understand how real people dealt with the war and what was happening in Europe before America joined the allied effort.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - I have to be honest, I got this from the library when it first came out in 1989 and within the first chapter, gave it up. Many years later, Dave and I were on a trip to Hawaii and I picked this in the mass market (think small) size to take on the plane with me. I figured it would last me through our Hawaiian week long vacation. As luck would have it, I finished it before we reached Hawaii and then had to find a bookstore in Oahu to get the follow-up book, World Without End. The story is set in the 12th century and evolves around the building of a cathedral in fictional Knightsbridge, England. Prior to this Follett had been known for his historical thrillers but this book showed what a great historical fiction writer he is.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - This book, in my mind, is a modern masterpiece. The story is about Count Rostov, a Russian nobleman who is saved from execution by the Bolsheviks in the 1920's because he wrote a revolutionary poem while in university. Instead of execution he is under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. As the years go by, what the count does with his life and the people he has touched becomes the story.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - You will notice that this is the only book I mention which is not actually historical fiction. This was the beginning of my love affair with Fredrik Backman's writing. Ove has been retired from his job, his wife has died, and he sees no advantage to living any longer. Enter a feisty young Iranian neighbor, her clumsy husband and two adorable girls, and Ove just might have to stick around. Backman's many books are favorites of mine and he is one author I always read.

Do you have any books you'd like to read again for the first time? Please let me know!


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