Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Six Books A-Reading

I love books and I love to read. I'm just not a linear reader.

What, you ask, does that mean? Well, I can't seem to read one book at a time. At any given moment in my life, I have up to six books scattered between my nightstand and side table next to my reading chair.

Why is that? Well, I've asked myself the same question. And this December I think I've come up with a reply.

My mood.

Have you ever started a book and it didn't click with you? Or have you read all the way through and not truly found much satisfaction? Have you perhaps re-read or re-started that same book at another time only to discover a completely different experience? Well, I have. I've started and/or read books that have been "okay" or "bleaky" only to re-read them and discover a great enjoyment ... a completely different story even.

But it's the same material. I'm the same person. Why did it gel this time and not the time before?

I've come to the conclusion that reading, being such a mind and imagination driven event, is influenced by our mental state. The "place" you are in emotionally influences how you experience the words and story you read.

So ... my "December Six" included Girl on a Train, These Shallow Graves, The Paris Wife, Jessamy, Quiet and Written in my Own Heart's Blood.  It was an eclectic mix and -- in this year's over-scheduled, dreary month of December -- not necessarily the right recipe for my slightly stressed out mental state.

Girl on a Train bugged me -- for about 2/3 of the read -- and it was one of the few books that I seriously contemplated not finishing. But it was rated Best Fiction Book of 2015 and I am not one to toss in the towel. Didn't help that the story was told by a whiny, unlikable primary narrator with a bunch of equally yucky secondary ones. However, it did take the promised Hitchcock-esque turn. I anticipated the ending but overall did find that last 1/3 of the book more satisfying.

But, that's not the only reason I believe I was resistant to the read. It was the dark tone and the depressed narrator and her inability to take control over her life that got to me. Amidst all the pre-Christmas stress as well as an over-scheduled calendar and perpetual rushing about, I couldn't enjoy the book because I couldn't relax into the story. It set me on edge and stressed me out ... not a good bedtime read. Not a good choice for this month,

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly was picked up by mistake. I'd misread the last name of the author. But when I started, I was drawn in completely by the protagonist and her struggle between the life she had and the life she longed for. The mystery was compelling, the characters fully-drawn and the setting eerie. It had everything I wanted in a book this month.

The Paris Wife is a beautiful dramatization of the story of Hemingway's first wife Hadley and their relationship/life in Paris. Author Paula McClain has a strong sense of these characters and makes them real. But in this tale I am faced with a woman with a lot of drama. She can't seem to determine what she wants, deal with the larger-than-life nature/personality of her husband or do anything about ... well ... anything. I sympathize with her challenges as a post-WWI woman limited by societal norms and I am truly interested in her story. She just has too much angst for me to enjoy the book fully right now. So I read a little and then take a break.

Quiet by Susan Cain is my non-fiction focus.  I really like it. I just read it slowly and absorb what I learn. It address the challenges of life as an introvert amidst this overly-talky world. I'd share more but the Introvert in me won't allow it.

Written in my Own Heart's Blood is the latest Diana Gabaldon. In 2015, I read and re-read her entire Outlander Series and this is the latest ... book 8. And, like the others, it's about 825 pages. I'm stalling not because of related drama -- though it has it in spades in various different and intriguing storylines. I'm stalling because I don't want to read it too fast as the next book isn't out yet and I don't want to lose track of what's happened and be forced to re-read 825 pages to figure it out!

Jessamy is the piece de resistance this December. It offered exactly what I needed, captivating my imagination and giving me moments to escape and find joy in another time and place. The book is out of print now but was a favorite of mine as a young girl. I found a hardcover copy on-line by ... fate, I read it quickly with immense pleasure, tearing up at the end. What a delightful story!

So, that's the moral of this tale. What we enjoy from the written word is intensely personal. It has everything to do with who we are and where we are emotionally and physically at the time we pick up that book. What we dislike at one time may fascinate us at another ... or not.

So if you have a lot of stress, don't pick up something that adds more. Unless that's what you are looking for. Me, I like to escape, discover new places, new ideas and a story that creates a movie in my mind that I could jump into ... perhaps even become one of the characters myself.

Now ... wouldn't that be the ultimate adventure ... Of course, that tale has been written by Jasper Fforde with his Tuesday Next series which began with The Eyre Affair... 

What are you reading? Or not reading ... Think about it.
                                                                                                       -- Jenni