I’ve discovered (nothing new, I promise) that there is a psychological difference between books that are given to me as mandatory reading vs. books that are recommended to me vs. books that I pick up on my own.
This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m willing to guess.
For the longest time in high school (and admittedly, a bit in college) I had a very hard time chugging through books that were mandated by my teachers. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t allowed to just enjoy the books as they were presented, but instead required to assess, analyze, and annotate at varying levels of depth. Actually, there’s no maybe about it. That’s it. That’s why. I don’t like having to work at a book. I want to sit down and get sucked into the world. I think being able to get 100% absorbed into a book is a skill given to avid and fluent readers. I understand that teachers and professors can’t assume that everyone in the class is at the same level of comprehension regarding a book, but having to sit and analyze when all I wanted to do was enjoy severely impeded my level of interest in (nearly) anything I was required to read in school. (I say nearly because Ender’s Game was effing phenomenal.)
Then there are books that are recommended to me. For some reason, maybe I’m picky, I’m automatically predisposed to dislike books that others assume I am going to enjoy. I have a hard time picking up something that someone tells me I will like. This might be because I take particular pride in sitting down and really getting into the why when someone asks me for a recommendation. You can’t just recommend a book to someone! You have to understand their mindset, what they typically enjoy, what they look for in their own literary pursuits, and honestly, you have to know their reading level. So when someone looks at me and goes, “OMG! I just finished ____ and you have to read it because it was so amazing.” That really doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, it puts me off. My book shelves are filled with books that people have told me I will like. Rarely do they live up to expectations because honestly? You don’t know me. You don’t know my life.
And then there are the books that I pick up myself. These are the books that might sit on my bookshelf for years. I could pick them up, fondle them, flip through the pages, read the flap, and put them back…only to do it again in two months’ time. These are the ones that turn out to be my favorites. These are the ones that I speed through and cherish (at some point down the road.) These are the ones that fill my repertoire when someone else asks me for a book recommendation. Books like The Eight by Katherine Neville, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, books like the Ranger’s Apprentice series (for there are roughly 10 of them) by John Flannagan, or even any of the Dan Brown novels (yes, any. Even the ones before Robert Langdon.) Lesser known gems like The Red Tent by Anita Diamant or Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. The cliché thought provokers like My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult or the ever-growing group of non-fiction books that I’ve begun absorbing like no other (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer or Stitches by David Small).
All this to say, I’ve finally picked up a book that most people read for school, several people have told me they hated, but I purchased on my own accord, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I was inspired by the likes of Silverado and V for Vendetta referencing the classic and the fact that last year for my reading challenge, I had to broach a book that was initially written in another language. In the last week, I’ve zipped through 300 pages. I have roughly 150 left. This tale of intrigue has me predicting the Count’s actions at the worst parts and literally laughing out loud at the best parts. I’ve even taken to reading it during my lunch breaks at work, so as to figure out how it’ll end even sooner.
I can’t tell you if I’m going to like the destination, but I can tell you that so far I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.