Monday, 28 March 2011

Positivity About Reading!

I'm tired of talking the negativity in book reading/book blogging. Over the last month or so I've found myself a little jaded, but tonight I picked up a book that I wanted to read and felt excited at the idea of starting it, the idea of reading it and the idea of talking about it. The book isn't important right now. I want to talk about all the positivity of reading.

The positivity starts before you even pick a book. Instead you read blogs, you start conversations on Twitter, you have favourite authors, you browse in bookstores. You engage with the constant, uplifting, enthusiastic and knowledgeable dialogue about books.

From that delirious stream of names and titles and book covers, one book will make itself known to you. This is the next form of positivity. Maybe some of your favourite bloggers have all mentioned the same title? Maybe a blogger you are less familiar with wrote such an eloquent discursive review about a novel unknown to you to that point? Maybe a novel hit the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List? Maybe an award shortlist was issued and one of the novels leapt out at you?

For whatever reason, you decided on a book. Now you have the glorious experience (if you are like me) of heading for a favourite bookstore. If you're lucky, this is a wooden-floored, armchair-filled, coffee-scented haven of an independent bookstore where you know the owner and share recommendations. If you're still lucky, you have a large chain bookstore on your high street. When you arrive in the bookstore, you gaze around at all the brilliant forms of literature - the beautiful colours, the stacks of novels on tables, the titles that give you teasing hints about the contents of a book.

You can't resist trailing your hands across some - maybe idly picking up a few and reading the back of them to see if the blurb piques your interest. You have mentally added half a hundred books to your wishlist before you arrive at the bookshelf that contains the novel you've decided on today.

As you pick it up, there comes positivity the third. That would be the sudden thrill of ownership, the possessiveness even though you have not handed over a penny yet. You gaze at the cover, you might flick through and read a few pages to determine this is, indeed, the right choice.

Even the painful part of handing over money can be a form of positivity as the bookseller asks if you want to redeem your loyalty points on this purchase and you shake your head, knowing that you are building up to a monumental spending spree with those points at some heady point in the future.

You save the book to a time when you are alone in the house and can luxuriate in your favourite reading space - be that your sofa, your bed, your bath. You have a drink at your side. You have no reason at all for being anywhere else; your time is not being demanded by another person.

Here comes the biggest positivity at all: as you turn the first page. Maybe you read the dedication? The acknowledgements? Finally you settle down and start reading this chosen book. And the potential! The worlds you will visit! The characters you will meet!

If you're honest, you know within a few pages whether this novel is one that is going to be a dream to read. Maybe you grin at the author's choice of words. Maybe a character resonates with you as they cry or smile. Maybe you are intrigued to the point of obsession as to WHY a character is in a particular situation.

This now becomes a love affair - an all-consuming heady passion! You cannot do without the book. If you have five minutes to spare you re-engage with the book. When you're not reading the book, you think about the book ALL THE TIME. You draw out the reading experience with the book because you never want it to end. When it does end you feel a sense of sadness, a wistfulness that you will never have quite the same experience as when you first opened this book.

And your final positivity.... TALKING about the book! The joy of finding someone else who adored it just as much as you. The stimulus of finding someone who had a different impression and your ability to discuss, maybe even argue, the finer points of the novel. Even, dare I say, the time when you gather your courage and tell the author how wonderful you thought their novel was. You find a community who liked the book you've read and, EVEN BETTER, know other authors you might like!

This is the positivity of reading. This is why we spend hours in bookstores, why we buy more books than we can feasibly read in a lifetime, why we build communities in real life and online to discuss novels.

It is the wonder of discovering a new-to-you author and realising they've written ten other books.

It is the desire to spend hours on end turning pages and drinking in words.

Reading is a wholly positive experience - and that should never be forgotten.

Please share with me some of your most positive experiences!


  1. Heehee. Cool blog post. Although I'm not sure I like the idea that you consider paying for a book "the painful part"!

    Unfortunately for me, out in the countryside, it's Amazon all the way. No brick and mortar stores within easy reach. But on the plus side, I can afford to buy far more books than if I paid RRP in Waterstones.

  2. I just bought Chambers Dictionary to read Embassytown as I don't want to miss out China Mieville's wordplay!

    Laughing out load last week reading Terry Pratchett's Going Postal.

    Crying during The Time Travellers Wife

    Never wanting Martin Baumann by David Leavitt to end as I was so immersed in the lives of the characters.

    So many!

    Great post! You've been quoted on my blog as I think 'drinking words' is amazing!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been really off my reading for the last few weeks and I didn't really know why or how to combat it. This post has let me see that all I was missing was a book to feel the positive in and I think I might have found one lurking on my shelves that I would probably not have picked up otherwise

  4. Last week I purchased seven books for $15 from the discount shelf. I have read two and they were great. I had my son with me and when the clerk tried to entice me on a membership, he mentioned the easy return policy. I replied, "I would never return a book. That is considered a sin." My son laughed and agreed with me. It was a good feeling to know he felt that way. A book is always good even though I may not agree with a few things.

  5. An excellent post. Really made me stop and think.

    When I have a new book to start, I take a selection of my shelf that I have not read. Go to bed and sit and read the first few pages of a few and then decide. Sometimes it is only the colour of the cover that makes me want to choose that particular book.

    Whatever I choose and however I do it, I know once I have stepped off the edge I just love reading.

  6. I remember back in the 90s, I had to travel 90 minutes by train to get to the nearest SFF bookstore. (This was before the Internet!) And after buying about ten books, it was a thrill sitting on the train looking at them all and deciding which one to start reading.

    And there will always be the thrill of reading an author for the first time and getting immersed in their book. Whether it is their first book or they have published twenty, that first discovery always gives me a kick.

  7. You ever read If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino? This post reminded me of it very much!

    Sad to say that I find it hard to relate to paragraphs 4-7 though. For me, it's replaced with: "You browse Amazon and The Book Depository for a bit to see where you can get the best deal". I don't even get a kick out of browsing the shelves at a bookshop anymore, all I can think of is "Want to get home and see how much this is online". Secondhand bookshops are the only ones I can be bothered with anyone, as they might have a relatively rare hardcover or an out-of-print...

  8. Oh Ole, I can so relate, that's exactly what I used to do before I discovered the Book Depository. Though mine was only a 20 minute train ride :p

    I used to lock myself up in my room and just while away the weekends immersed in my books, ignoring the noise downstairs and just being lost in the worlds I was reading about. I remember this most vividly from reading the Mists of Avalon when I was 14. It was pure joy :-)