Samstag, 12. Mai 2012

The right Book

I am sitting here surrounded by piles of books. There are at least thirty books I haven't read yet stacked on my desk, on my cupboards and even on the floor; they range from Oliver Twist to The Catcher in the Rye and I have bought all of them because I knew I would enjoy reading them. How come then that during the last few days I picked up every single book, started reading it and found not one that appealed to me?
Yesterday I ventured out at my parents' shelves, almost desperate to find a book I would want to read and came across The Divine Comedy there, which instantly fascinated me, so my dilemma is already sorted out, but it left me wondering why some books sometimes just don't feel right.

I think everyone has already experienced that a book which seemed boring or even bad at a certain point in your life turned out to be absolutely amazing and intriguing when you gave it another try some years later, or the other way round. Human beings tend to be only interested in things they can at least remotely relate to and usually we like a book the better the more we can identify with its characters and their situation. A very good example of that is my experience with Jane Eyre, which came just at the right time: for most parts of it Jane is a young woman, strong-willed but socially unskilled and unversed in interpreting her own feelings and those of others. I doubt I would have loved this book so much if I had not been able to relate so completely to her position.
We do not stop to develop and mature until we die, in fact at fifty years we are not even the same persons we were when we were twenty and so it is obvious that one and the same book affects us differently at different stages throughout our lives.

There is more to it, though. A good book creates a certain atmosphere, it evokes a special feeling within us. It has a distinctive ambiance which makes us feel like coming home whenever we turn its pages after having read it once. These feelings are hard to put into words, but I am convinced that every passionate reader understands what I mean. Sometimes a novel fails to captivate us simply because it is not in line with our current mood.
Even the season makes a difference at times, in summer I am usually drawn to other books than in winter.
Another important factor is the amount of concentration we are prepared to spend on a book: now and then we want a light read because we only want to drift with the flow of a story without anylysing too much, but at other times we need something demanding that fully absorbs our concentration.

Not all is lost if we surprisingly dislike a book we expected to love, sometimes it is just that the time is wrong. For now I am content with The Divine Comedy and I know that soon I will again be in the mood to pick up a book I dismissed as boring only yesterday.


  1. You are so right about this. Sometimes I wander around looking at all the books in my house but finding nothing to grab me and sometimes even though I know logically that a book is good, I just don't feel it. If I read it at any other time I think I would. Reading is so subjective, even within the same person.

    I think I was already too old when I read Jane Eyre at 25 to really relate to her. I enjoyed Villette so much more as I felt more affinity with Lucy than I did with Jane.

    1. Yeah, I'm not alone! I am glad you share my feelings. I guess I will let a little more time pass before I read Villette, just to make sure I am mature enough for it.

  2. I love your thoughts on Jane Eyre. I think a truly great book is one to which I am able to relate at different points in my life. Books like Jane Eyre and Persuasion provide me with something fresh each time I approach it. That they can strike a chord with me at various stages is, I think, a sign of their greatness. Does that make sense?

    1. It does not just make sense, in fact I am amazed how well you described it!I totally agree with you, well, except that I still have to discover Jane Austen's greatness... But I promise to give Persuasion a try as soon as I feel courageous enough.