It Has Been a Long, Long Time…

So.

This past weekend – which, for my husband and I, comprised Sunday and yesterday as he was working on Saturday – we pretty much had an internet blackout (besides my brief blog yesterday), and we read. He read a book which he loved – ‘The Forever War’, by Joe Haldeman, and I read three books, all of which were utterly unputdownable. My brain feels like it spent the weekend immersed in double cream; this morning, my head is spinning like a drunkard, high on dreams.

It has been a long, long time since I sat up late into the night, desperately needing to finish a book, wiping away tears with one hand and frantically turning the pages of a story with the other. Last night, that’s exactly what happened. Last night, I was reading ‘The Book Thief’, by Markus Zusak.

If you haven’t read it already, then I strongly recommend you drop whatever you’re doing (it couldn’t possibly be as important as reading this book), and get your hands on a copy, and read it. I’ll even allow you to download it to your e-reader, if you must, though I’d much prefer you had it in the flesh, as an object of beauty in your hand. If you have read it, then I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Image: tumblr.com

Image: tumblr.com

I can’t even… there’s no way I can even talk about it yet, because it’s too present in my head. Do you know what I mean? I’m still living in the book. I’m living in the basement of Himmel Street 33, huddled under the dust-sheets, waiting. My brain’s too full to process the brilliance of this novel, but as soon as I am able I will write about it, and I will – I hope – convince you, if I haven’t already, that books have the power to change the world.

The other books I read this weekend were ‘ACID’, by Emma Pass, and ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio. Here are their lovely jackets – and, in case of ‘Wonder’, a little slogan which pretty much sums up the book:

Image: nosegraze.com

Image: nosegraze.com

Image: blog.waterstones.com

Image: blog.waterstones.com

I fully enjoyed both of these books, too, and I’d heartily recommend them both. Reviews will follow in the next few weeks, once my brain has had time to let the stories settle.

This morning, I’m almost painfully aware of how extremely lucky I am to be literate, interested in books and able to appreciate stories. Honestly, I truly believe books increase my soul. Every time I read a book I love, I gain another layer, like an oyster gilding a piece of grit into a beautiful pearl. Every book I read makes me better. I can’t express to you how much I love that.

It may not have escaped your notice that I also read quite quickly. In two and a half days I managed to read three books, two of which are quite long. (Actually, technically, I read three and a half books, because I was halfway through another story, which I also managed to finish over this weekend. But we won’t count that.) I remarked over the weekend that reading, for me, sometimes feels like I’m just inserting the book straight into my brain; it’s like watching a DVD, almost. I read so fast sometimes that I wish I could retrain myself, or re-learn the art of reading from first principles, perhaps. I wish I could read more slowly, particularly when it comes to a book as beautifully worded as ‘The Book Thief’; sometimes, I really feel like I’m missing out. I don’t skim – I do read every single word – but sometimes I feel I don’t leave them to sit in my brain long enough to really absorb the full goodness. When it comes to words, I’m definitely a wolfer, not a gourmet. ‘The Book Thief’ has some of the most beautiful phrases I’ve ever read, and it is packed full of brain-jolting images, which caught my soul and made it pause, contemplating. But the pauses would have been better if they’d been a bit longer.

I feel a slower reader would have taken even more than I did from a book as rich as ‘The Book Thief’. A slower reader could have allowed the story and the writing to seep into their bones even more powerfully than I was able to. I’ll have to read the book again (not that this will be any burden) to get the full and proper effect. Sometimes, I find myself consciously trying to read slowly – making myself savour every sentence – but it rarely works for long. My natural pace catches up with me, and I race off again like a greyhound after a hare. I wonder sometimes if this happens to me due to my personal combination of curiosity and impatience – I couldn’t have slept last night without knowing what happened at the end of ‘The Book Thief’, of course. I had to know what happened to Liesel and her family; I had to know what happened to Max. I had to know who survived. There would have been no point in trying to go to sleep before I’d reached the end, and I knew that.

I’ve been reading now for a long, long time. My parents encouraged me to read from such a young age that I was cramming in whole books before most kids have stopped drooling on themselves, and I’ve always been grateful for this. It means I’ve put in a lot of reading practice, but in this case I’m not sure practice makes perfect. Practice makes me go faster, but that’s not always the best way to experience a story.

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned here? If so, what did you think? Also, do you tend to read slowly or quickly, and do you have any tips on how to change your ‘reading style’?

Happy Tuesday. And I’m not joking about ‘The Book Thief’. Seriously. Get a copy today.

2 thoughts on “It Has Been a Long, Long Time…

  1. Claire Hennessy (@clairehennessy)

    I reread The Book Thief recently and definitely appreciated it a lot (not that I hadn’t the first time) the second time around. I’m a fast reader too but also a big rereader – there are some books that just lend themselves to a second look, either because of the gorgeousness of the language or the clever things they do plot-wise. I don’t know if slowing down on a first read would necessarily mean appreciating these things more – I think there are aspects of a novel you can take in more readily after you’ve resolved the big question of ‘what happens next’.

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      I hadn’t thought of that, actually – what a good point! If you can put aside the burning need to know what happens next, then you can fully appreciate the language, imagery and so on. I’m a big rereader, too, but it’s been forever since I met a book I wanted to reread as badly as this one. I’m glad you’re a fan of ‘The Book Thief’, too.

      Thanks so much for commenting, and for reading. 🙂

      Reply

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