Monday, July 27, 2009

Finding the Right Book

The Magic Path

Julia Keller, in The Chicago Tribune yesterday, called it "The Magical mystical path linking book and reader". It being that moment when you, the reader, find a book that is just right for you - when you acquire or become aware of the book.
Sometimes it is not the right time as when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time as a senior in high school.
Even though I was a veteran reader with Shakespeare, Hardy, Eliot, Dreiser and others under my belt, I was not ready for Jane Austen. Only later after college as an "adult" would I return to Pride and Prejudice and discover the humor and wisdom that was there all along, even when I was not ready for it.

Most of my connections come from browsing used book stores and finding strange books by authors unknown to me (usually dead authors). That is how I found B. Traven's Death Ship. I sometimes follow up on recommendations from friends or bookstore (the smaller the better) clerks; thus finding authors like Par Lagerkvist and his amazing novel The Dwarf, and Giuseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard, possibly the greatest historical novel of all time. The magic can even happen on-line as when earlier this year due to my obsession with Robert Musil I encountered a blog by Damon Young, a philosopher from Australia and found his inspirational book of philosophy and the reading life, Distraction.

Whether the path is through dusty corridors and shelves in used book shops or the electronic byways of the Internet (with the help of "Google") it is magic, but I don't buy the "mystical" part (just call it serendipitous). And it certainly is wonderful magic when it leads you to a new (to you) author and book that resonates with your life and reading. The wonder of the book is renewed again and again.


cynthia newberry martin said...

Yes, I love when this magical connection occurs, when the stars align and it all comes together--the passage in the book in your life at just that moment. It's like it's all meant to be. Nice post.

James said...

Thanks for your lovely comment. The potential for this "magical connection" is one of the joys of reading.