Book Love – The Second Time Around

March 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

What makes us turn away from a book one day and then six months later pick it up, turn to the first page, and read spellbound, as though it’s the most beautiful thing ever written?

Has this ever happened to you?  Because it’s happened to me a few times of late.  I start to read a book, usually one that has won some award or another, or has come highly recommended by a friend or a reviewer, only to find myself slogging through, 50 odd pages in (sometimes only 30 pages in).  I keep picking the book up, knowing I should be enjoying it, but I’m not.  Then I find myself not reading for a few days, a serious no-no if  you’re a writer, until finally I talk myself into putting the book aside.  Guilt consumes me.  I get over it (more quickly now).  I  go back to the bookshelf or the bookstore and select my next literary adventure.

Then, maybe four or six months or even a year later, the castaway reasserts itself.  It falls off the nightstand, is unearthed from the pile on the floor, is mentioned on some best-of  list, and my curiosity piqued.  I pick the book up, usually dust it off, and begin again.  This time I get caught up in the story, am moved by the language, and fall in love with the characters.  I can hardly believe that I’m reading the same novel.

Books I fell in love with the second time around: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name ) by Lawrence Hill, The Sea by John Banville, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortens0n, and even Saturday by Ian McEwan (I am still flummoxed by that one).

Why did the book draw me in, enchant me, and move me the second time but not the first?  Is there some chemistry that is required between the reader and that which is being read that was missing in original attempt?  Since it’s the same book, the same words printed on the same pages, it would follow that during the fallow period it is the reader that changed in order to meet the reading of the story in a different way, to create the right chemistry.  Maybe I’m over-analyzing this.  But knowing that I almost missed the pleasure of reading all five the titles above, this has required some thought.  Now I know that if there’s a book that I  really do believe I should appreciate, but don’t, I put it aside and return to it at some point when it tugs at me, really tugs at me.  At that point, whatever needed to change in me, must have changed.

So here’s my suggestion: if there’s a novel or fabulous non-fiction book that you’ve set aside and, after some period of time, you find yourself thinking about it, make a cup of tea, open the book to the first page, and read.

You never know what might happen the second time around.


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