One of my favorite emotions has to be nostalgia.

The combination of joy at past experiences with just a hint of grief that they’re gone—it’s like the warm buttery sweetness of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie flecked with a few crystals of sea salt as counterpoint.


Of course, the thing about nostalgia is that part of what makes it so sweet is the fact that our past experiences are gone, never to be had again. And while there’s always memories and re-telling old stories with friends, those experiences are still far away, only accessible through imagination. So maybe the more appropriate metaphor is the memory of chocolate chip cookies.

When it comes to past experiences, memory and imagination are the best we have. We can’t literally re-live the best parts of our lives. Sticking with the culinary metaphors, we can’t have our cookies and eat them too.

Although as I discovered recently while prepping for Season 2 of the Thousand & One Goodnights Podcast, children’s books may be a loophole in this seemingly immutable law of emotional physics.

How My Rereading of Children’s Books Exposed a Loophole in the Emotional Laws of the Universe

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been rereading The Chronicles of Prydain, one of my favorite series of books from childhood.

To give you an idea, these books had as much influence on me as a child as The Lord of the Rings, The Hardy Boys, and Redwall (I narrowly missed Harry Potter as a kid).

Anyway, while I was reveling in my rereading of these stories that I hadn’t read since elementary school, it struck me that there were some odd emotions at play…

Because it’d been so long since reading the Prydain books, I’d largely forgotten the plot points and even many of the character details from the books. As a result, I was experiencing the very same excitement and wonder at reading the stories that I had as a kid.

It was as though I was getting to literally relive my childhood experience of reading The Chronicles of Prydain for the first time.

But at the same time, I was remembering how I felt as a child reading the books for the first time:

In other words—somehow—I was simultaneously getting to literally relive the experience of reading the stories and remember what it was like reading them as a child.

Among the countless treasures one discovers reading children’s books and bedtime stories, this has been one of the most enjoyable for me personally. Rereading my favorite childhood stories almost literally threw me back in time.

And as terrifying as the prospect sounds at first blush, re-living a part of my 11-year-old life turned out to be surprisingly wonderful.

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