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In 'Replay,' A Life Full Of Second Chances

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In 'Replay,' A Life Full Of Second Chances

In 'Replay,' A Life Full Of Second Chances

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Finally this hour, if you're looking for a thriller to read, Brad Meltzer has a suggestion. He's the author of a stack of bestselling thrillers. It's no surprise, then, that one of his favorite books is in that same genre. Here's Brad Meltzer with his pick for our series, You Must Read This.

Mr. BRAD MELTZER (Author): When I was 19 years old - oy, I already sound like an old man. But that's the point. When I was 19, my dreams were even bigger than my hair, which is saying something. And it was in the midst of those dreams that I first read the novel "Replay," by Ken Grimwood. "Replay" has a simple premise: In chapter one, the main character, a 43-year-old man, sits at his desk and drops dead of a heart attack. When he wakes up, he feels odd, taking in familiar old smells, old sights, and he realizes he's back in college, in his freshman dorm room. He's 18 again - with all the memories of his 43-year-old life. He gets - as the title says - to replay his life. And this time, he's no dummy. He doesn't marry the wife he knows he'd one day divorce. He bets on the '69 Mets and makes a ton of cash. He's rich and rich and rich. And he turns 43, drops dead - again.

When he wakes up, he's now in his junior year of college. And this time, he realizes that money doesn't matter as much as he thought. So he lives a different life, until he turns 43 - dead again. When he wakes up, he's now in his 20s. The space between death is shrinking, and he keeps dying. But what cracks the book wide open is when the main character is flipping through the newspaper one day and sees a classified ad that says if you know who Lee Harvey Oswald is, call me. This is pre-1963, and the hero of "Replay" now realizes he's not the only one out there reliving his life.

But the best part of Replay isn't the plot. The best part is that the book is about you - yes, you. The moment Ken Grimwood has his authorly hooks in you, you can't help but look at your own life. You can't help but think what would I do differently if I could live my life again? What would I do differently?

But by the time the hero lives his bohemian life in Paris - still not the perfect life - you realize that this book isn't a thriller. It's an instruction manual. You should never live your life looking backward. You live your life by going forward. So how much do I love this book? When I was 22 years old, I worked at Games magazine. I had no money, a $359 apartment and $10,000 in college debt. And the first thing I did with all the cash I didn't have? I tried to track down Ken Grimwood and buy the movie rights for this book. I didn't just love "Replay," I believed in it. I dreamed of it. I wanted this book - this book that only I had found.

And that's when his agent told me the film rights were snatched up years ago. Years later, when I first found Google, I again found myself searching for Ken Grimwood. That's when I found that he died in 2003, and when I also realized I wasn't his only believer. At the time, there were fan sites dedicated to "Replay." Hundreds of people - like the fellow replayers we never realize are out there - all of them dreaming my same dream. But as any true believer or replayer knows, there's a strange odd power in knowing you're not alone in this world.

NORRIS: Brad Meltzer is a bestselling author, most recently of the "The Book of Lies." He lives in Florida. The recommendation you just heard was the novel "Replay" by Ken Grimwood. For more You Must Read This recommendations, you can go to our Web site. That's at npr.org.

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