Blog 11 Feb 2018
The Gift of Reading
Does anyone else waffle the way I have done when it comes to abandoning a book?
A couple of days after examining my thoughts on reading (3 Feb18), the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) interviewed 3 reader-writers about their practice regarding finishing a book that didn’t particularly grip them. The writers were Nicole Blades, Cary Claire and Elizabeth Renzetti. Unfortunately, on the radio it was difficult to identify whose opinion was being voiced. One said life was too short. One said when she was younger she would stick with it. The third said she couldn’t give up on a book.
An interesting point made by one writer was that when she was younger, if she didn’t immediately like a book or found it too difficult, she stopped reading. When she was older she went back to several books and found she enjoyed them a great deal. In her view, maturity plays a significant role in how we react to stories. We may find that with life experience a discarded story can be a meaningful revelation with another attempt.
An idea offered by a writer was that if she liked an author, but found the book she was reading not as well written as previous ones, she would continue to read. Invariably, she would be glad she did. In contrast, if I’ve read good work by an author, and the next one I pick up is doesn’t meet the previous standard, I give it short shrift.
I am interested in whether a book has ever changed the trajectory of one’s life or made a lasting impression on the readers I know. A good friend said one book that deeply affected him was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. He has never forgotten it. The protagonist refused to join the herd and held to his principles regarding modernist architecture – despite increasing pressure to conform. These ideas have shaped my friend’s life.
Most people likely feel one or two books have left a lasting mark on them. I remember reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in Grade 12. The legal question Rodion Raskolnikov wrestled with before killing Alonya, an old woman, momentarily altered my outlook and approach toward my friends. I had internalized some of the legal arguments ‘Roddy’ made. My girlfriend said I frightened her. That comment woke me up. Of course, I went on to become a lawyer!
With all these questions swirling around, I decided to send a questionnaire to friends in two different book clubs to gauge whether any of my thoughts conform to theirs. One of the questions posed is what you find are the most important factors that make a good book. This is not as easy for me as I thought it would be. I might change my mind later, but these are my choices for now:
I asked 2 friends to tell me what 3 factors made a good book.
If this exercise interests you, please fill in the Prism Reader’s Questionnaire and send it in through the Comments.
You can read some of the comments here soon.