Until recently, if you’d asked me about my reading habits, I would have termed myself a voracious reader. But in the last year, books haven’t captured my interest. I’ve been wading through my 100 books in five years list (and you can see I haven’t made much progress in that department). And it has felt very much like wading. Through the deep end. Without a snorkel.
At my last physical meeting with my writer’s group, we sat and discussed the reasons why we write. Or more accurately, what draws us to what we read. That thought has been in the back of my mind ever since, mostly because my deep love for books seems to have waned, and that worried me. Greatly. Was I depressed and unwilling to acknowledge it? Or just bored with my book choices?
I decided to “read” some books on audio while I knit, hoping to shift something. I listened to A Tale of Two Cities, quickly becoming mesmerized–in fact it is now in my to reread pile, but in a physical copy so I can savour the writing. The characters, the setting, the rich use of words so captivated me that I had to keep listening.
From there, I moved on to Northanger Abbey. Not Jane Austin’s best book. Again, some great visuals, but just not enough to make me want to know what those characters did while I went to work. Because I kind of knew already. I also didn’t feel very compelled to pick up another book after finishing it.
Restless and really starting to wonder about that whole “am I depressed” question, I picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Not on my list of 100 books. But whoosh, off I went. I read the book quickly, unable to put it down. I thought about it during the day. Went to bed hours early so I could read it at night. Almost the instant I shut the cover after finishing, I browsed my bookshelves looking for the next book. That hasn’t happened for a long time! And that’s more my normal behaviour. Thankfully, I picked up another book that has me thinking about the character at random moments, causing a burning desire to read the book whenever I can.
With this book, something clicked in my head. It is that piece that is missing, both for the reason I read and for what I should write. Most of my adult life, I’ve read a large amount of contemporary (leaning to literary) fiction. And most of those books contain a compelling character, but not necessarily a compelling plot. They contain lush, descriptive language of both people and places, setting time and location solidly in my mind. They have situations or characters that come to life in my mind. Think about The Lord of the Rings. This is a book with place set so vividly, it could exist. With people, like hobbits and wizards, that I believe are real. The contain characters and situations that make me think about those people when I put the book down. Wonder where they’ve gotten to in their story and whether I missed something when I wasn’t reading. That is what will keep me reading. Not a race along a convenient plot with nice little dots all neatly joined to form a wonderful little picture.
And what about you? What compels you to read?