Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let's Discuss the Book After

Book blogging is a fairly subjective hobby. After all, we often choose whatever we want to read off our shelves. While some bloggers are more serious about literary criticism, most of us share how we felt about the book in terms of what it brought to our lives. (which, I think is why so many people are alarmed by blog reviews...there's no exact science to it--you simply have to hope the blogger loves it)

Last week, I read a couple of fantastic books that enthralled me, and then I read one that felt like work.

Sometimes, I'm willing to work in my reading. Non-fiction comes to my mind. Older classics come to mind. But when I pick up a contemporary novel with an endorsement that says something like, "If you care about American literature you will love this book!" and then I have to force myself to the end, I get doubtful.

Well, luckily Rhapsody in Books told me this was not the author's best work, so I'm willing to give good old George Pelecanos another try...someday. But I did feel bad for my rather flippant negative review, and surprised to learn that both Julie and Kathy seemed to love his other book. Either it's better, or we just have some different taste!

To be clear, while I harped on the crass language yesterday, really the downfall of The Turnaround for me was that the story was predictable. I just didn't know why I should keep reading. I knew how things were going to go. It felt like the book could have been much shorter.

In any case, Julie told me on Twitter yesterday she's pretty sure she'll like this book better than I did, so please don't hesitate to enter to win a copy!

But my point to all of this was...would I have given this book a better review if I hadn't just finished a compulsive page turner? What do you do when you finish a really awesome book? I actually have a hard time sometimes moving onto the next book, and I feel like I chose poorly in this case. I tried to be as fair as possible, but I just didn't like it. Do you ever struggle with the book after a really great read?

I mention this because I'm a bit worried about the Readathon. I have a ton of books that I think will be awesome planned to read, but what if one is really fantastic and I can't move on???? Is anyone else worried about this?

(just a note...I'm participating in the Readathon from The Friendly Book Nook so that Faith 'n Fiction Saturday can proceed as normal here.)



Amy

25 comments:

Trish said...

Amy--great question! I've experienced this a little bit with past read-a-thons, but I try to keep in mind that every book is so different and I have to treat them that way. I know, easier said than done. Last year I read The Diary of Anne Frank for my second book and I had to take a break from reading because I was so emotionally affected but also because the next book just didn't grab me. So I cheerleaded for a while. I don't think I'm getting anywhere near answering your question--except to say, I agree, reading IS subjective. :P

The Book Chook said...

When I finish a wonderful book, I spend a while mourning that it's over. It talks to me during my day, as I go back over certain scenes or lines of dialogue. Generally the characters stay with me, and maybe they participate in new scenes in my head.

I think it can be like re-marrying - sometimes you need a decent interval before you're ready to move on!

Stephanie said...

I am so jealous of all of you who are participating in the Read-a-thon. It sounds like so much fun. I was really tempted to give it a go, but with two young kids in the house it probably won't be worth staying up as I have to take care of them the next day. Nobody likes a tired, cranky Mom!

Jennsbookshelf said...

Great post! I definitely agree! After I read something powerful and compelling, I have to take a break from reading for a while. I have to have a chance to digest and absorb the book before I can give another book the chance it needs.

Vasilly said...

That'a a good question. I have a lot of books planned for the read-a-thon that fellow bloggers me were great. I never thought about what would happen if I couldn't move on. After I read a great book, I usually can't move on to the next one for the rest of the day. I'm still processing what I've read. Maybe I'll just stop reading and cheer everyone else on.

Lauren said...

I have a hard time after reading an excellent book! Sometimes I don't want to move on quite yet, I want to keep the characters with me, hold onto them a bit longer. Because, really, once you're done with a book and moving on to another one, the characters are gone. So sometimes I take a bit of time off (a couple of weeks) to process the book. I also write about the book. That seems to help.

hiddenplace said...

I almost always have a hard time moving on to the next book, when I finish one that I really connected with. It's almost like I need a mourning period, a time to let go of those amazing characters, to allow myself to move on and embrace new ones. Sometimes I have to go with a different genre, or just give it a couple of days to fade away. I rather think it's normal; sometimes I just feel as if I've made new best friends and I miss seeing them.

With the last read-a-than I purposely chose books that I thought I would like, but not get so invested in that I couldn't move on. I mainly read children's and YA literature books. And it worked for the most part. I didn't read as much as I had hoped, but I also read more than I thought I would. I do remember I had a hard time reading for a couple of days after :)

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Great post, Amy. I've had this problem before, where I finish a fantastic book and just know that whatever I read afterward is going to suffer because it will unavoidably be compared to the previous awesome read. When I'm reading a novel that I can tell is going to be one of those "this is SO good" books, I try to pick a fun or interesting nonfiction read to follow it up, so I'm not comparing another novel to it. And sometimes I just space out watching TV for a couple days until I'm not so obsessed with the awesome book before I move on.

Meghan said...

This is something I'm worried about too. If I read a truly great book, I have trouble picking up another for a couple of days. I doubt any of the books I've chosen so far will be truly great and that's actually one of my criteria. I almost wish I had an entire series to bomb through because then I wouldn't have to worry about it at all!

Julie P. said...

I don't know if I loved THE WAY HOME, but I definitely enjoyed it. I'm not surprised that you didn't enjoy Mr. Pelecanos' book b/c I don't think they are for everyone. They deal with characters and crimes that are very rough and it's not always easy to read. I could be wrong, but I think men will appreciate his stories and characters much more than women do. I rarely see male characters developed like this (very complex)in most of the novels that I read so I found that aspect very interesting. I also lived in the DC suburbs for over 10 years so I can relate to the setting (and appreciate how he makes it come alive.) I'm not sure that you are going to like any of his novels so why not move on and read some books that you know you'll appreciate more! :) Life's too short to read books that you find a chore!

Bella Foxx said...

I don't really know what I wanted to say except HI!

When I finish a really great book, I either write a review about it, right away, or I dive right into another book. Like I'm hoping the next book will keep the feeling going.

longbrakeliving said...

I don't always mind working for my fiction, and while I agree that I shouldn't have to work exceptionaly hard to get through modern literature, I do find a few exceptions, like Mr. Norell and Jonathan Strange. I really, really enjoyed reading that novel, but it was tough and slow going at times. I don't think its destined to become a classic, but I thought it was unique, inventive and worth the effort.

I have found difficulty switching books, especially recently, if they are from two very different genres. I just finished a post-WWI mystery, jumped to a traditional fantasy, and then back to a new post-WWI mystery. I liked them all, but at the start of each, I found myself longing for the characters and story of the previous book. I think the only way I could have eased the transiton would have been to take a day or so break between the two, or moved to something slighly similar inbetween. But, after the first 50 to 100 pages, I find myself caught up in a new story!

Florinda said...

I'm not doing the Read-a-thon, but I know what you're talking about here. Sometimes a book pulls me in so much it's hard to get out, and I can't jump right into my next one. I'll take a breather by doing something other than reading, catch up on blog-reading or start right in on my review to help me work through it.

I don't usually take a long break (rarely more than a day), but my next read will often be something light and/or in a completely different genre - a distraction that doesn't inspire comparison.

Great question, Amy!

Joanne said...

This is a great question. For me, after reading a book that has blown me away I find re-reading an old favorite or comfort read helps to cleanse the palate so that any future new reads aren't at a disadvantage.

Going further with the book-food metaphor - I adore cheesecake and sometimes a cheesecake is perfect but sometimes I try a new cheesecake but the cook has used skim milk or not enough sugar - so even though I generally love it, slight changes can affect my appreciation. Or maybe I just ate too many pieces and my stomachs decided to revolt. But no matter what the experience I will never say no to a piece of cheesecake. :)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are so many different things that can have an effect on whether we enjoy a book or not. But at the end of a book, I think our personal taste will tell us whether we may enjoy it in a different set of circumstances, or if we'll just never have the taste for spinach/liver.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I sometimes have trouble moving on to a new book as well. Funny how that works sometimes.

J.S. Peyton said...

I either do one of two things when I finish a really amazing book: a) immediately pick up another one because I'm so excited about reading that I can't wait to move on the next one, or b) take a few days to absorb how much I loved it before I read another one.

I think sometimes we can never really know why we don't like a book. Taste plays a large part as does the time in your life that you read it. I wouldn't worry about it too much though. You could always give it a try later.

bermudaonion said...

I do think my previous read can affect how I feel about my current read - for the good and the bad. If I just finished a fantastic book, the next one might pale in comparison. If I finished one that I didn't like, I might enjoy the next one more just because it's different. I hope that makes sense.

Amee said...

I think that only happens for me if it's the same author. If they packed a punch in one book and then I immediately pick up another of theirs (or even a sequel to the first), it can lead to disappointment.

I wonder if it works the same in reverse. If you really disliked a book and the next one you pick up is much better, does it become a little better than it actually is because you're reading it after a particularly disappointing read?

Jenny Girl said...

I think it depends on the book. Sometimes when I read the same genre back to back the books all start to run together, so I switch it up. Sometimes I just run into a bunch of bad books.
I would say take a day off from reading. Shocking I know, but think of it as a recharge day. Pick up a magazine or something instead. Maybe that will clear your mind for the next book.

Beth Kephart said...

And sometimes a book that seems like work at the time (The Brief Wondrous Life ... was one such book for me) becomes like magazine reading a few weeks later. I try to give all books three chances—three different moods or weather or relative restedness.

And then, if I still can't do it, I don't.

S. Krishna said...

This is a good point. Sometimes I feel like I'm a little harsh in my negative reviews after I've just read an amazing book. Hopefully that doesn't happen on Saturday, and all the books are good!

Jen - devourer of books said...

Reading an awesome book can make reading a decently good book next very difficult. If I realize how much a book has affected me I will occasionally either do a re-read of an old favorite or read something short and fun. If I don't realize it until too late, I sometimes also put that caveat in my review, 'I think I would have liked this better if I had not just finished completely amazing book X,' etc. It can be difficult to sort that out sometimes, though.

Red lady-Bonnie said...

It sure sounds like many of us can relate to the same feelings. I have felt the same way that a really great book can be hard to follow. I often need to take a quick break between books and process the book and enjoy the moment. Then, I can regroup for my next read. I do find that my mood can effect my enjoyment of a book. I have put aside a book that I didn't care for at the moment and have picked it up months later and liked it much better.

TexasRed said...

Interesting idea -- I don't think we can help ourselves from comparing books. Still, I think we interact with all books at a particular point in our life -- including past life experiences and past books we've read. All we can do is explain our biases while we try to limit their effect.

Eva said...

I think the key to the read-a-thon is to have a lot of variety in your possible books, so that you can indulge your whims as much as possible! That's my strategy, anyway. :D

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.