Thursday, July 5, 2012

Experiencing Books

A year ago, I liked to write straightforward reviews of books. I liked to critique, examine a book's flaws as well as its good points, and give it a certain number of stars. Nowadays, though, as you may have noticed, I avoid doing that. Actually, I have no desire to do that anymore. The thing is, books have come to take on an entirely different meaning to me lately than they used to.

By Juan Antonio Flores Segal
I hardly have time to read for fun while I'm in school, so when I do take a few minutes away from my studies to crack open a book--without any assignments or deadlines looking over my shoulder--it's like drinking a glass of clear water after trying to strain mud through my teeth. So, of course, I'm not going to look for the one speck of dust floating in it. When I'm done, all I'm going to remember is how refreshing and beautiful the experience was.

That's why, lately, I've been more focused on writing about my experience with a book than I have been on critiquing it. Reading is so much more personal to me than it has ever been before. I feel like I'm having a conversation with the author. Trying to rate it would be like leaving a deep discussion with a friend and saying, "Hmm...well, it was fun, but not my favorite conversation...3 stars."

That's why my reviews of The Sun Also Rises, Committed, and Notre Dame de Paris were more of my thoughts on related topics than they were actual reviews. I feel like if I didn't enjoy a book--especially a book that is generally regarded as a classic--then it's probably my fault. Maybe I just wasn't engaging in the conversation enough. And frankly, I don't have time to not have a wonderful experience with a book.

Half the experience, of course, is where and when I read the book. I'm beginning to believe that if I read a book outside on a sunny day, then I will probably feel totally different about it than if I read it under my covers in the middle of the night with a flashlight. (I did that all the time when I was a kid...maybe I should resurrect the tradition.) Or if I read it snuggled on the sofa with hot chocolate on a snowy day. Or if I was trying to read it, but kept pausing to laugh at my roommates singing along to Justin Bieber.

I hope that you all have similar experiences with many of the books you read. Sometimes I get caught up in just crossing another book off my internal list and don't focus so much on--as corny as it may sound--the journey. That is the true reason I love books.


  1. I'll have to try to think about books this way! It sounds intriguing. Funny that you read books under the covers with a flashlight as a kid! I should have known. This is Mom at Carrie's house.

    1. Of course! But I think it was more so that I didn't bother Stephanie than it was that I was worried about you getting mad at me!