Love (and Hate) in the Time of Literature

As this blog was founded largely on a mutual love of books, it seems only fitting that my first post should be a reflection of that love. There is nothing quite like the excitement of picking up a promising new book or getting swept away in a familiar story. Discovering a new author to add to your favorites list is like uncovering your own personal diamond mine (though I am much more willing to share books than diamonds) especially if the author has been published several times. Getting fresh suggestions from people who have previously recommended good books makes me feel like a kid at Christmas, watching commercials for all the dozens of toys I hope to find wrapped up under the tree. The anticipation is exquisite. I have been told by friends, family, and complete strangers that my face lights up in excitement upon entering a bookstore. All the thousands of possibilities sitting on the shelves, worlds to get lost in, characters to get to know, plot twists to send my mind reeling and force me to read “just a little” more before bed or work… It seems as though this acknowledgement is always followed by a cruel reminder of the rather sad state of my bank account and the limited number of hours in the day each of which cruelly curtails both perusal and purchases.

But, in spite of all my excessive ramblings on the many amazing properties of books, (and in order to perpetuate a fairly ridiculous simile) not all books can be diamonds. Some of them are rough cut, showing promise once the author has developed his or her style, some are lumps of coal: maybe the story is intriguing but there’s just no hope for the author, or the writing is poetic and lovely but the plot is a jumbled mess. And then there are those that cannot even be mistaken for literature. There is no glimmer or glint of beauty in the seemingly endless pages.

Surprisingly, it is from these pages that I have gleaned the most knowledge over the past year. As a shockingly stubborn and determined person, I have always felt compelled to finish a book once I had started it. However, after spending the past year and a half of my life immersed in mountains of  weekly literary assignments that I had no hope of completing, I came to realize something that I believe will stick with me for the rest of my life. I love reading. It has shaped and changed my life in ways that I doubt I will ever be able to fully comprehend, but there are more books out there than I could ever hope to read. Forcing myself to muddle through books I don’t enjoy is simply taking time away from discovering hundreds, maybe even thousands of books that I could love. Making myself read my assignments, even the ones I hated, made reading lose some of its magic for me (temporarily). It took me a while to get excited about a new book again. That is a feeling I hope never to experience again.

So I wanted to pass on this little bit of knowledge I’ve gained. Maybe you already knew it and I’m just slow on the uptake. But it seems an important thing to remember. Books are everywhere (as they should be). Good books are everywhere, so why waste any time on those that could ruin the magic. That being said, I highly recommend The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Happy reading. Make sure it’s a good one!

Sarah

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