I came across the following quote from C. S. Lewis today:
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."
It makes a very good point. There are certain books that I enjoyed very much as a child, that I still take even greater pleasure in today. "The Hobbit" is one that springs readily to mind. I read it for the first time when I was very young, and enjoyed it hugely. I enjoy it even more now, because I can now appreciate Tolkien's singular style of writing, and his very droll sense of humour - two things that I did not appreciate when I first read it. However, I think one could expand upon this quote a bit: that the only really worthwhile books, are the ones that you can go back to again, and again, and that always have something to say to you. The best books are not the bestsellers, which tend to be wildly popular for a year or two, and then fall into oblivion. Nor are they those serious, self-conscious works of literature, which garner great acclaim when they are published, but tend to remain a bit obscure, and are read primarily by those who are serious and self-conscious. Nor again, are they necessarily the classics, though a good many classics will fall into the realm of worthwhile books. They are, after all, classics for a reason.
The best books, however, the ones that are worth reading, and re-reading, are the ones that speak to the soul. By that, I do not mean just those books that are beautifully written, or deal with great themes, though, of course, such books would be included. I mean books that are genuinely human, and deal with genuinely human things. They can be anything from "A Tale of Two Cities" to P. G. Wodehouse's Wooster and Jeeves books. They can be simple children's stories, such as the Redwall books, or they can be epics, like "The Lord of the Rings". They can be tales of adventure, such as "The 39 Steps" or can deal with ordinary, every day happenings, like D. E. Stevenson's "Mrs. Tim Christie". But one things they will all have in common. Namely, that they touch some part of whatever it is that makes you you. They might make you laugh, or cry, or thoughful, or just plain glad to be alive, but whatever it is, you will be better for having read it.