It might seem like a waste that with all the impossible millions of books out there waiting to be read, I would ever choose to read a book twice (or in the cases of these books, sometimes 5+ times).
When it comes to these best nostalgic books though, that’s the only way to go. Once is never enough.
For avid readers, reading a book you’ve read before can almost be as much fun as discovering a new favorite for the first time. I literally get giddy picking up any book from this list, because I know I am going to be spending time with a best friend who will show me a new side of themselves.
There is a peace and joy that comes from entering a story you know will love, and you know the ending. So much of life is so unpredictable and spontaneous, that a little predictability can be intoxicating.
I think that’s why even the most formulaic of books still can find an audience. It’s the equivalent of a relaxing bubble bath, with no stress or anxiety over the characters needed.
You know with certainty that however dark themes might appear in the moment, the ending will ultimately be happy and finished off just right with a bow.
Enter Nostalgic Books: Books You Can Never Read Just Once
These nostalgia books fill a similar function. They are perfect, and can only be improved on with more readings.
I do try and leave a respectable amount of time between readings (at least a year, usually more), but honestly, it depends more on what’s happening in my life that calls to a particular book.
If I’m feeling anxious about the direction my life is taking, it’s Eat Pray Love. If I need a true childhood throwback that is full of gorgeous complexity, it’s the Clan of the Cave Bear.
Whatever the reason the book needs me to read it, I listen.
That’s also why my copies of these books are in some cases held together with tape, a wish, and not much else. But after so many years of service, how can I give in and get the Kindle version, where I have with so many other books?
No, these books deserve the weight and heft of paper, ink, and bindings. They are worth the struggle to keep them together.
I hope you enjoy five of my favorite nostalgia reads, and they become favorites of yours too!
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The Clan of the Cave Bear, more than any other book, is one I have read over and over throughout my life. The first time I read it I was 11, and the fact that I could read a book more than 500 pages long just made me so impressed with myself. But more than that, I just connected so hard with the story that the hero Ayla, became a lifelong friend. If I hadn’t had a boy, I would have named my first child after her!
The Clan of the Cave Bear (and the rest of the books in the Earths Children Series) follows the story of a Homosapien girl who is orphaned by an earthquake and then adopted by a Neanderthal clan. While it is a work of fiction, it’s as historically as accurate as it can be given the story would have taken place thousands of years ago. Author Jean M. Auel has taken years to research her books, and she is always incorporating the latest findings to make them as realistic as possible. I grew up with this book, and watching Ayla from childhood to finding her soulmate, to growing into her own woman helped guide me in ways I can’t probably quantify.
It’s not remembered as much now, but this is a book and series that shift your entire outlook about yourself if you let it. Just be prepared to give it the time it deserves because it is definitely dense (but so, so worth it).
Ah, Elizabeth Gilbert. The woman who inspired a revolution of self-reflection (and not a few international trips).
Eat Pray Love is one of those books that found me in just the right moment of my life. I was struggling with the anxiety and uncertainty of my chosen profession and the fact that I felt very much rudderless and out of control of my life. Then comes this successful woman, who did all the right things, and is now starting over. About 15 years older than me when I read it, reading about her journey of self-love and the permission she gave herself to only think about what she needed for a while was such a freeing concept.
I too have always loved travel for the new experiences it brings, but I’d never thought about how sometimes to find yourself you need to go somewhere where no one knows you. Where no one is placing preconceived notions on you. It sounds so obvious to say it, but it was a radical idea to me (and one that inspired my own year-long trip to South America years later).
This is another book I reread every few years, and it always offers up some new piece of wisdom that resonates now. I love that this is a book that grows as you do and I genuinely encourage everyone to at least try it. It may not rock your world, but if it does, it does so to the core. And you don't want to miss that.
I laugh every time I see this book because it’s one my mother kept trying to get me to read for years. I was at the age though, where if you told me I should do something, then that was exactly what I was NOT going to do.
I eventually was bored enough one day though and didn't have any other good books on offer (this was pre-kindle), and so I picked it up. Wow. I was so mad at myself for intentionally denying myself this book for so long!
The story of Lyra and her daemon as they work to save their world is one of epic proportions. It is also the beginning of a trilogy that has me the most invested I have ever been in a love story. I remember literally throwing the book at the wall and screaming towards the end of the final book (I was 13 and prone to emotional outbursts anyways). It’s the perfect example of why I adore reading so much: the emotional investment that happens. These characters will feel like your family and you really CARE what happens to them.
So much so that you might ignore real-life responsibilities for a while because you just have to know what happens to them. This book is worth calling in sick for though, so I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.
I think for a lot of people, no nostalgia list would be complete without this gem. It’s one of those books that makes you remember where you were in the world when it burst onto the scene. I personally was at Drama Camp in Pennsylvania when I saw the book starting to pop up all around like Mushrooms. Some lucky camper’s parents had sent them the book because “it seemed quite popular for your age.”
Well, they weren't wrong, except about one thing. This book was going to be popular for EVERY age. And deservedly so. The story of the young wizard Harry who is broken free from the depressing life he was living under the stairs of his aunt by a letter inviting him to the magical academy of Hogwarts is an epic tale that deserves rereading.
In fact, It’s been a few years since I’ve read it last, it might be time for another look!
OK, if you are reading this list and have also read this book, I am going to be very impressed! I have actually never met another person who read it. This is a shame because for fans of the magical it’s a really good one.
Thwonk is the story of a high school girl who comes across a magical doll that turns out to be Cupid. He can help her in many different aspects of her life, one of which of course, is helping her crush fall in love with her. Despite his advice, that's the choice she makes. As someone who also used to fall hard for crushes, I related completely. It's a lesson in how getting everything you ever wanted isn't always what you thought it would be. I was obsessed with this book for years as a teen, and it holds up pretty well as an adult. The story may sound simplistic, but it is saved by a writing style that is both endearingly vulnerable and entertaining. It has definitely made me feel the need to look up more books by Joan Bauer at the very least.
Give it a try. You might find you see a little of yourself in this book too!
Looking to make reading a more regular thing? Why not start a book club! Check out my article on How to Form a Book Club for tips on creating the ideal club for your lifestyle.