Is there a book you never wanted to end? As a reader with a long to-be-read list, I’m usually happy to finish a book and get started on the next one. Sometimes, though, I’ll delay finishing a new book that I adore. I’ll linger over each sentence or word choice. I’ll read a page or two, then put the book down and return to it later. I’ll re-read passages I enjoyed earlier, to refresh my memory.
That delayed gratification comes only with a new book. Don’t get me wrong—I love to re-read old favorites. There are some books I’ve revisited more than a dozen times, and reading them is like catching up with an old friend. Favorite series from when I was younger, such as Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass, are the equivalent of comfort food. Other books I have a completely different experience with, especially if I go a few years between re-reading. Whether it’s classics like Jane Eyre, or contemporary fiction like A Visit from the Goon Squad, I may have been drawn in by the storyline during the first read, but as the years go by and my own perspective changes, I love finding new layers of meaning I may have missed the first time around.
Still, there’s nothing like the feeling when you read a book for the first time, when the ending is unknown and you don’t know what will happen to the characters you’ve gotten attached to. The anticipation, the sense of surprise, the possibility that anything could happen before you turn the last page. It makes me slow down to savor the excitement. Sometimes I only slow down right before the final chapter; other times, I try to make the entire book last as long as I possibly can.
It took me almost two months to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. At that point, Harry Potter had been a part of my life for a decade. As an 11-year-old, I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in one sitting, bringing a flashlight to bed with me so I could finish it overnight. Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, I always looked forward to the next book. I’d read each one quickly, and wait impatiently for the next one. By the time the seventh book was released, I was 21. I couldn’t imagine not having a new installment of the series to look forward to. While I looked forward to a resolution, to Harry hopefully triumphing over Voldemort, I didn’t want it to end. When I finally began the book, I savored it, reading each chapter slowly, drawing it out.
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At around the same time, my grandmother had a stroke which turned out to be fatal. For those painful, difficult weeks, when I wasn’t by her bedside in the hospital or trying to help my devastated family, I had Harry Potter to provide an escape. My reading pace slowed further. Even though the book was the darkest of the series, with Hogwarts under siege, it was a refuge and a distraction from the stress and grief. I finally read the last sentence a few days after my grandmother passed away, and I found some comfort that good conquered evil in the end.
I still procrastinate finishing off a good book. Whether it’s a thriller like The Martian, or a dark comedy like Where’d You Go Bernadette, sometimes it’s better to just slow down and enjoy that first-time-read feeling.
Did you ever read a book you never wanted to end?