Monday, April 16, 2018

The Joys (and frustrations) of Starting a New Book

This weekend I started a new book.  

I just love that feeling.  As soon as I close a book after reading the final page my mind begins scrolling through my TBR list.  What will be next?  It's a feeling of excitement and anticipation that I don't often get to experience in other parts of life.  

Some people feel sadness upon finishing a book.  Saying goodbye to characters, to a world.  Having to move on like that is akin to grief.  

Not me.  I love finishing.  I love checking books off my list and picking new ones. I get giddy at the thought of starting another book.  

When I was done with my book I walked over to my bookshelves for a minute and just looked.  I remembered many of the circumstances in which I purchased the books lined up there and the people who recommended them to me.  I thought through the books I need to read this month for book clubs and my own reading goals.  I know this is such a nerdy confession but it was so much fun!!!

I decided to dig into next month's book club book and get that one off my list asap.  I have plenty of time but I liked the thought of finishing early and giving myself some time to process the story before talking it over with the group.

At this moment, I was optimistic but also a little sad.  The new book called to me, but so did the stack of books that I had set aside to read in April.  There are some gems in that pile.  

But, I cracked open the pages and began.  Ah, a fresh start!  

After a few pages, after a couple of chapters, I still couldn't get into the story.  I was puzzled.  What's up with my brain?  I kept plugging away.  Reading and rereading sentences that were not overly complex.  Wondering why this story wasn't flowing and each page finished seemed like a herculean task.  

I put the book away and felt relieved to get a break.  That's weird.

On Sunday afternoon I picked it back up again and something fell into place.  I was reading through the story and gradually found myself enjoying it, my mind painting pictures and seeing the characters alive.  The cadence of the dialogue felt intuitive.  

Later, I was talking with my daughter and I realized that the last book I had read was very different from this one.  The one I had started was a modern story of a community of African Americans living in North Carolina.  The book I had finished was a Korean family saga that was set in Korea and Japan.  

My brain was fixed on the style and tone of the Korean story I had just read.  I had to switch gears dramatically and that was making it more difficult to get into the new book.  After 100 pages, though, I was in and enjoying it.  

We talked about how reading is so wonderful because you get to peek into so many different worlds, different lives.  Learning about new cultures, even down to differences in dialogue, happens naturally in a novel.  But then, when you start a new book it's like you're dropped in the middle of a world, populated with people you don't know and a culture that you have to adapt to, it's a brand new experience.  And, it can make your brain ache a bit.  

Reading more diversely is a gift but also a challenge.  I love reading the Louise Penny series of books because the setting and many of the characters are familiar.  It is comforting to get to know a world and be able to step into it again and again.  But, growth and the strongest cognitive benefits of reading come from giving your brain the exercise of close reading by reading about a new country or world and settling in with characters you've never met before. 

What are you reading now?  Is it a challenge or a comfort?  

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