Between summer vacation and some pretty intensive work on the sequel to Exertions of Better Men, I haven’t taken much time for reflection or to post. I have, however, taken time to read—a delectable luxury that I highly recommend to any and everyone…
This time spent reading has had me thinking about what makes a book really great. You know that moment when you finish a book and you sort of sigh? It used to be as I closed the back cover and just ran my hand over the spine. These days its as the Before You Go screen pops up on my eBook asking for a review. But the feeling is the same.
That feeling is gratitude… What a wonderful thing to get lost in another world for a while. How lovely that authors and entertainers welcome us into their creative landscape! I get the same feeling at the end of a great movie. What’s even better about books though is that the experience is (usually) extended. With a movie, you get a couple of hours. But with a book you typically get many hours, possibly days or even weeks before you surface, popping back up out of the imaginings of the author.
But what makes a book really great, in my opinion, is when, no matter how wild the landscape (think post-apocalyptic political regimes, fantasy galaxies, monster families, etc.) there will be moments, hopefully many, where you as the reader think “Yes! That is exactly how it feels!”
For me, this happens when an author reaches into some small, obscure human moment and describes it with such clarity that I feel they have peeked right into my life.
Let me give you an example from the magnificent A Gentleman in Moscow by the exceptionally talented Amor Towles (just one of several summer reads). The situation is that a couple has fallen asleep after a date night and the main character observes the following:
Fifteen years younger, they would not have been asleep. Having stumbled back from a late dinner in the Arbat at which they had ordered two bottles of wine, they would be in each other’s arms. Fifteen years older, they would be tossing and turning, getting up twice a night to visit the loo. But at forty? They had enough appetite to eat well, enough temperance to drink in moderation, and enough wisdom to celebrate the absence of their children by getting a good night’s sleep.
For those of you who are not yet approaching 40…here is a glimpse at your future. For those of you who already passed that milestone, I’ll assume you agree the description is…apt.
This was just one of dozens of moments that I found myself laughing right out loud or nodding emphatically and that was when I decided this is exactly what makes for a great book.
If you are looking for a few good books to escape into, I highly recommend A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (my favorite Gabaldon book is actually Dragonfly in Amber but you need the context from Outlander before you read it!), and of course, I’ll make a shameless plug for another book I am rather fond of: Exertions of Better Men by Yours Truly.
I hope your summer has been restful and rejuvenating and as always: Happy Reading!