Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the Right Time to Read



I recently finished reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. This is actually the second time I’ve read it; I first read it about five years ago.

That may not sound surprising to people, that I’m reading a book for a second time.

But actually, I didn’t really like it at all the first time I read it.

The writing is incredible. Stylistically, Kundera is a first-class writer, all the way. But I wasn’t wild about the plot – or the characters – at all.

And yet here I am, just having finished reading it again.

There is actually a very specific reason I pulled it out of the box it was buried in to give it another shot. That reason doesn’t really matter right now; I’d like to get at a different point for now.

This time around, I liked it quite a bit more than the first time. I’m still not too thrilled with some of the plot points and character quirks, but I found them much more forgivable this time. Originally, I’d have given it a 2/5. Now, it’s probably more of a 3.5/5 or so. It’s still not perfect, but there are a lot of things to admire about it.


This is actually the second time I’ve done this, though – re-read a book that I didn’t like the first time around.

I also did this with Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I first read it many years ago (probably about 10 years ago or so). It wasn’t bad, I guess…but it was terribly boring. Or so I thought.

When I had occasion to read it again (like Unbearable, there was a very specific reason I revisited Faces), I realized that Till We Have Faces is actually INCREDIBLE. Very possibly in my top 10 favorite books now.


Why would I dislike a book so much the first time around, and yet grow so fond of it the next time?

Considering these two little tidbits, I can imagine this means that perhaps there is a “right” time to read a book, so to speak. I wonder if, when I first approached Unbearable or Faces, I had simply come to them at the wrong time – too early, in these cases.
If this is true, I can’t help but wonder: What makes it the “right” time or the “wrong” time to read a book?

Obviously the books themselves don’t change. It can only be something in me that has changed in between readings. But what was the thing that changed in me?

Am I more mature now than I was then? (hopefully, yes)

Am I wiser? (again, I hope so)

Do I pay more attention to the words? (meh – it’s hard to say)

Am I looking for different things in books now from what I looked for then? …

…actually, there might be something to that last question.

The first time I read each book, it was just a book I had recently picked up that I thought sounded interesting. There was really nothing more to it than that. And I didn’t like them.

When I returned to each of the books some years later, I had a very specific reason to read them. And now I like them.

I wonder, then, if our motives for reading a certain book actually affect how we feel about the book as a whole.

This sounds like a reasonable assumption. In fact, I see no reason not to assume this is the case.

That said, though, here are the next questions:

What other books could get the same treatment as Unbearable and Faces?

How many books have I read (just once) and liked, that maybe I would not like now?

How many books have I read (just once) for a reason and liked, which I may not have liked in a different circumstance?

And, most importantly of all:

What specific reasons for reading a particular book would make me like that book more? And what specific reasons for reading a particular book would make me like that book less?

There’s really no way to know the answer to these questions, of course. But they’re fun to think about.



2 comments:

Emily Searle said...

I do this with music all the time

Jill C said...

You make a very good point here, and I agree with it. I think it does matter our motivation for experiencing anything. Thanks for sharing:)

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