There is no pleasure, on this planet at least, to compare with reading a book that draws me into it from the first sentence. A book that pulls me through hours of time, so that my hands fall asleep from holding it, while my mind stays wide away. Characters whose voices remain in my memory, mixing with the chatter of remembered friends and siblings. Rooms I spend time enough in to know just where the chairs belong and where to sit to catch a breeze through the open window. Events so urgent, so exciting, so frightening that I am exhausted by the final page. A book that becomes so vital to my life that I can never lend it even to my closest friend. The Alienist by Caleb Carr; Rising Tide by John Barry; The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie; Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Handling Sin by John Malone; and Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag, among dozens of others.

In the past several weeks, I’ve started six or seven books, and not finished one of them. Books I was sure I would enjoy. A book by one of my favorite authors. A book recommended to me by a respected reader. A book whose cover promised to reveal historical secrets known only recently discovered. Try as I might, I could not justify the commitment of my time and passion. I won’t list the names of these books. They are in a bag for Goodwill, and may go on to delight someone for whom they are more suited. I hope that is true, for although I could not finish the books, I want them to find a reader who will appreciate them. I owe the authors that much for their labor and perseverance.

With some books, the timing must be right. There are books I start to read and put down in defeat. Later, I try again and the book patiently begins again. Now, I can focus on the history or biography. Now, I can give myself to the fantasy. Now, I can keep up with the unraveling of the mystery, and pick up the clues as soon as they are laid out for me. It took two tries to get into Snow by Orhan Pamuk, which dazzled me when I was ready for it. Although I was the last one on my block to read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, I went on to read it twice.

Last night, I started reading a book I rescued from the Goodwill bag. I started it once before, when I was too busy and bored (yes, it’s possible to be both) with my real life to give myself over to this novel. The Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul. I’m brewing coffee now, so I can read through the night. Tomorrow is Saturday and no one owns me for the whole day.

Do you have a book that became a favorite after you gave it a second chance?
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Published on May 18, 2012 21:36 • 122 views • Tags: caleb-carr, capote, dostoevsky, john-barry, naipaul, pamuk, rolvaag, rushdie, steinbeck

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