Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good Books Are...

...a traumatic experience.

No, really, hear me out.

Anyone who reads more or less constantly knows that finding a new book to read is a challenge. And heaven knows that the ratio of good books to okay books is pretty small. And the ratio of okay books to crappy books is even smaller.

When you look at it that way, finding a book you like is a rather miraculous experience. 

Let's say I'm at the bookstore, looking through shelves and shelves of books. I see a title that looks intriguing. It's not trying to be clever, it's not a pun and it doesn't give away key plot points. I read the author's name. Not someone I've read before, but I've seen his name mentioned in interviews where an author I enjoy is talking about authors he likes. So I think, "Hey, I'll give this a shot."

After making my purchase, I go to a restaurant or fast food joint, place my order and start to read.  

So far, so good. The first chapter is enticing. I like the protagonist. I think I can see where the story is going to go, but there is a distinct possibility I'll be surprised. 

Then I really start getting into the book. The supporting characters are well-formed and feel like real people. The settings are given enough description that I can almost see them in my head. 

I'm completely pulled into the book now, starting to read faster and faster. I know I should take my time and savor the experience, but I can't help myself. It's so good, I just want to devour it. I stay up late, thinking, "I'll read through the next chapter." 

I tell myself that four more times before I go to sleep. 

When I wake up, and I mean alert-and-thinking wake up, not just get-out-of-bed wake up, I open the book again and keep reading over breakfast. 

The next thing I know, I've finished the book, and I'm not ready for it to be over. I sit staring at the cover for a few minutes, the reader's version of an athlete catching his breath.

The glow, the rapture, of reading an enjoyable book is transformed into a new desperation: I have to find another book to read. I almost don't dare look for something new. What if I end up with a bad book? It takes me an hour or so to work up the nerve to browse my "Unread" bookshelf for my next affair. 

I make my selection, praying it won't let me down. I open the cover. The smell of book wafts out and my eyes become unfocused for a moment. I take a deep breath and hold it to the count of five.

I start to read.

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