|Photo by Gena Okami on Unsplash|
Sometimes a book or an author is just not meant to be.
We all make decisions about which books to read. When we browse through a book shop or a library, we make choices based on all sorts of personal reasons about whether we even pick up a book or not in the first place. Is it a book or an author we’ve heard of before or had recommended to us by a friend? Does the cover attract us? Even the section of the book shop or library that we gravitate towards dictates which books might find their way into our hands.
We pick up books, get a feel for them in our hands. We check out the quotes on the cover and read the back cover blurb. That is often enough to return a book to the shelf.
A few lucky books make it to the let’s-read-the-first-page stage.
Not that many go any further though.
After 50 plus years of this reading life, I make all sorts of quick judgements and choices based on that first page. If the writing style isn’t flowing for me, back on the shelf it goes. If the content isn’t my cup of tea after all, back it goes.
Obviously, my mood on the day of browsing plays a huge roll in this process, which is why I highly recommend multiple browsing days! A book that doesn’t appeal one week when I’m tired and grumpy, might be just the right thing a month later after I’ve had a restful weekend.
Then there are the books that after the first page, I’m still not completely sure about. I know from experience that some of my favourite books take a little while to get going. So a few more books, get the first chapter chance.
Working in an independent bookshop means that I can also give a wide variety of books the lunch time treatment, whereby a book has a whole half hour to hook me, or not, as I eat my sushi.
This is a little post about those books that got this far, but no further.
No matter how hard I try, Catch-22 is a book I simply cannot finish. I can usually get to about half way, laughing out loud and enjoying the odd-ball humour and irony, but then suddenly, I hit the wall and I’ve had enough.
Last night I tried to read The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasford. Given the awful summer we’ve had in NSW, I thought I would really connect to another year that was without summer thanks to the largest modern volcanic eruption. I gave it two whole chapters since she was writing a book from several perspectives, but I couldn’t get going with it at all.
Isabel Allende and I do not go together. I’ve tried several times, mostly because her books fall under the historical fiction umbrella, my favourite genre. Most recently, I tried to start A Long Petal of the Sea, but I just couldn’t. Her writing style keeps me at a distance and in this particular case, I could see the research showing in every single line.
Helen Garner’s Yellow Notebook was another recent pass.
During a major upheaval in my life in my late thirties, I decided it was time to jettison the numerous journals clogging up my life office. They were not only clogging up my physical space, but they also felt like an emotional burden I didn’t want to have with me any longer. But before I tossed them, I decided to read them one last time, looking out for any interesting, important, significant sections. I then typed these snippets up over a period of about a year. I’m in no way suggesting that I am a writer of Garner’s calibre or experience, but my snippets look and sound just like hers in the Yellow Notebook.
I ho-hummed my way to the 10% mark before passing it on.