Monday, January 16, 2012

Brief Thoughts on Books as Meeting Places

Jessica at Read React Review wrote a thought provoking post about underreading and overreading in book reviews. The whole post is great and you should read it, but one of the most interesting points she makes for me is about how one of the ways to correct overreading and underreading is "intentional interpretation in light of others’ readings." She gave an example of a time her own perspective of a book was changed by the alternate interpretation offered by a friend on Twitter. And it made me think how important this is to me in discussing books and TV shows...I seek out others opinions for multiple reasons, to know if others agree with the way I see things, to get clarity on what I don't understand, and to be given a broader view--after all I'm only one person with one limited set of life experiences and education, to view the same "text" through another's eyes often helps me appreciate its depth in new ways.

A recent example of this was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I read it and loved it, but then I read Ana's review. And while I also appreciated many of the things she did in the book, I felt she had understood things in a way I had sometimes missed. It almost made me want to read the book again immediately, to read it with not only my own eyes but with the added benefit of Ana's perspective. And I think that's one of the great things about sharing book reviews and discussing books with friends and online--it gives us added understanding of the text itself, but also of each other.

(I just can't figure out the ropes of this social reading thing! I want to be able to read books others have read, and recently enough that we can have actual conversations about them, but at the same time I need to protect myself and not develop a reading schedule or I'll lose my love of reading all over again.)

I thought Jessica made another interesting point that when authors throw a fit over the negative reviews it shows their lack of respect and understanding for what reviews mean to readers. If I am not allowed to express what I didn't like about a book or story, how can I ever be given the chance to understand it in new ways? For the millionth time, reviews are for readers, they are not for authors. They are our space to discuss a book and a book, in reality, is so much more than just a commercial unit that must be sold, they are places where we safely discuss the weighty, deep, troubling, and beautiful issues of this life in general and the world we live in. (2 points to anyone who gets that reference!)

It's an interesting thing to ponder and I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Has you view on a book ever been altered or corrected in light of another's reading of the same book? What role does bookish interaction play in your reading life?


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