“Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.”
― Alain de Botton
Timing – an unpretentious word that belies a rather complex concept.
Trying to explain timing in writing is usually reduced to two concepts. When does the story or event take place? What is the pace the writer employs in describing events and characters? None of these accurately define the concept of “being at the right place at the right time”.
I believe that destiny placed certain books in my hands at the moment I needed them most. And sometimes, I’ve needed to read them more than once. Some of these books became beacons during the rough patches when I couldn’t quite find my bearings. Others offered me solace and confirmed I was not alone in my view of the world. A few even became stepping stones for launching my dreams.
But there is another group, a rather ugly group of miscreants who wear their shame openly in defiance, the rejects of the To Be Read Pile (TBR), instead they are the novels of the Did Not Finish Pile (DNF). These books didn’t make the grade the first time around. Their colorful jackets mock me from their places on my book shelves like pathetic reminders of my failures. They are the last 10 lbs I can never quite lose. Celebrated little bundles of pulp that failed to catch my interest on the first read in spite of the glorious blurbs on their covers or the most fervent accolades voiced by friends. Why didn’t we connect?
Where can I place the blame? I guess I’m not as urbane or erudite as the the darlings of the publishing world. Maybe I’m “low brow”. And sometimes I’m right to let go because the book can’t redeem itself even as an alphabet primer. But what if it’s simply bad timing?
I rarely pass along books in the DNF pile after the first attempt. The honest truth is that I’m a book optimist absolutely convinced in my heart of hearts that no book should be given away, thrown out or passed along. This guarantees every member of the DNF pile a second or third chance even if years of dust accumulate on that colorful cover. On occasion my soft heart is rewarded for my hoarding with a gem discovered upon further inspection usually years after the first perusal. Something finally clicks this time around.
Have you ever found a book that didn’t quite hook you on the first go round only to became a stalwart favorite upon further review? What was it?