I wonder if you have similar experience with books as I do. Sometimes the book appeals to me immediately, from the cover, the title, through the first page, it grabs my attention almost instantly and I am hooked till I close the book after reading the finishing line. Those kind of books become part of my life, for a short period of time.
Yet, there are books that need to persuade me that they are books I should really read. I take this kind of a book, I start with the first few pages and somehow cannot get into it, not fully. These books especially need to work on me a little harder if they come after the first category of books that I mentioned above. If I have just read a book that captivated me from beginning to the end, and then I come across a book that fails to do the same, I will soon give up on the second book. I will leave it, for now. If I come back to it a few days or a few months later and it manages to captivate my attention then, it merely meant that earlier wasn’t the right time for me to read it. Some books that initially fail to satisfy my needs as a reader, occasionally manage to allure me at a later date and persuade me that they in fact belong into the first category of books; those that you would list as your favourites. I think that some books are appropriate for different seasons of life, and they certainly won’t satisfy our thirst for words before their time has come.
Yet at times that doesn’t happen. I either don’t come back to the book or it fails to satisfy my curiosity the next time as well. In this case I will most likely leave the book aside and forget it was ever even written. Those books leave me totally unimpressed, and I doubt they can convince me to give them a try the third time. I do not recall coming across many such books, but I am sure they do exist. And the fact I don’t remember many of them may as well be due to the fact that they lend themselves to oblivion. Why clatter your memory with something that was utterly unimpressive? Naturally, in this category are books that are simply not meant for me, or for you, due to either their topic, or the genre, or any other number of reasons. Are they bad books, I mean badly written? Not necessarily. But they won’t do anything for me so I don’t need to force myself to engage with them.
Now, there is another type of a book, the one that is ‘unique’. This kind of a book is outside of any category merely because it would not be fair towards other books to be compared with it. Recently I came across one such book. It was a book I heard about only by the title, knowing it was famous, loved, but I knew nothing of what it had hidden among its pages. That book intrigued me. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, and I made sure not to ask too much about it in order to let the book show me what it’s got on its own, without external influences. I went into the bookstore and bought the book. I even got the title slightly wrong, that’s how little I knew about it. “50th Anniversary Edition”, it said on the cover. There was another edition with a different cover, without that ‘celebratory sticker’, but I went for the edition that had it. I started reading the book, and I must confess I cannot recall its initial effect on me. I think I was too amazed that I was finally reading it, that I failed to notice how the first pages allured me. I was already captivated, even before reading the first few pages, so there was not much effort needed on the book’s part to make me want to read more. Somehow the book has already done that work from the distance. How? I have no idea, but whatever skill it used, it was a good one.
I took this book into my hands now, as I am writing this, and read the first few pages again. I think I read them in a new light, and now they do allure me. Almost as if the book is inviting to read it again. But let me get back to reading it the first time. See, I even call it the first time. I did’t really know what to expect but when I got into it, the experience was like drinking one of the best cups of coffee. Or even better, reading one of the best books ever while drinking the best cup of coffee (one doesn’t need to exclude the other!). The characters become so familiar, almost like friends. It was as if I moved into their neighbourhood, uninvited, and rather invisible too. I observed their lives, their behaviour, I loved every word, every sentence and every twist in the story. One of the main characters is among the most exciting persons I met in the last few months, surely if reading about someone in a book counts for a ‘meeting’. The problem was that the book wanted me to keep reading even after the last page was over. And I wanted to oblige. I missed reading the book in the same way that you would miss a person whom you got to love. No other book has managed to persuade me to keep reading it after this one, and I tried. Which book was it? I will tell you only if you promise to treat it with reverence should you ever come across it. If this book does not produce such reaction in you as it did in me, if it does not allure you in the same way, do not dispute my experience. It is between me and To kill a mockingbird, after which my reading will never be the same.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 29th April 2015)
Photos by © Iva Beranek