In which the author contemplates books and roads, and almost catches hypothermia

January 4, 2012 § 7 Comments

Yesterday, as I was waiting for a bus that never came, I found myself in a deep, contemplative frame of mind, most likely caused by the early stages of hypothermia. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last year about what makes a book “good,” and as I stood waiting, I found myself led down that line of thought. There are plenty of books that I enjoy that, truth be told, are not the best-written things in the world. Likewise, there is no shortage of books that are wonderfully written that I should like, but can’t bring myself to enjoy (or even finish).

It occurred to me as I began to lose feeling in my fingers and toes that books are a lot like roads; they take you all sorts of places. Just like roads, some of the places books take me I enjoy because they are beautiful or astounding or I wanted to get there, while other books I don’t enjoy for the inverse reasons. Now, if a road is taking me somewhere I don’t care to go, it doesn’t matter how well-paved the road is, I still don’t want to be driving it. On the other side of the same coin, if a road is taking me somewhere I really want to go, but is windy and full of potholes, it can distract from the journey (and occasionally induce vomiting, which, coincidentally, is the same affect poorly-written books have on me).



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§ 7 Responses to In which the author contemplates books and roads, and almost catches hypothermia

  • Robert Clear says:

    Yes, I think books are very much like roads. They’re also a bit like buses (if I might be permitted to bludgeon the metaphor to death): you wait for ages for a decent one, and after what seems like an eternity three turn up at once!

  • beckyday6 says:

    Great analogy, I completely agree! šŸ™‚

  • Indeed; my mood at time of reading can have some influence on my receptiveness. Some days there are journeys I don’t fancy even tho I know that it’ll be a book I might like, simply because today is not the day for that trip. Other times I can be conned into a different type of scenery because the writing is interesting or I’m more receptive on that occasion. Writing that irritates can make me queasy too, but mostly it’s a bad taste in the mouth and incredible frustration – usually the plot/premise is OK and you can see the potential but it feels mishandled. You want to give the author a good talking to. Then I’m lumbered with a book that I can’t throw away and feel foolish passing on. I have a pile of books to go at the moment and notice that they are mostly ones bought by family/friends as gifts because they “really thought you’d liked it” or, even worse “it’s my favourite and I wanted to share”. No comment on the implications of this and the mind confusion that follows.

    • R. H. Culp says:

      Recently I’ve just come to the conclusion that there are too many good books in the world to spend time finishing the bad ones. My “to read” list grows longer every day as it is.

  • Jay Swanson says:

    I’d totally agree, I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself. When reading a book there comes a point where I realize it has to go somewhere, and sometimes the end result can’t simply be the resolution of the conflict. If you have such a fantastically contrived conflict that all you want to do is see it resolved, fine, but that’s pretty rare in itself. I want to be tantalized with a destination that I want to end up in, not a proverbial cliff over which I’ll be propelled as things end suddenly.

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