The Curse of Being a Reader

It’s a lazy day now, Olympics on the TV, Scott playing Angry Birds, cats curled into balls and sleeping, and me thinking about how I don’t want to finish The Night Circus, not yet. I can pretty easily pinpoint why this book is so beautiful. It’s the same basic idea that makes the Harry Potter series so remarkable—it’s rooted in reality but a reality that’s been modified by something that can only be called magic. And The Night Circus is immediately darker. Sure, the Harry Potter series begins with an orphaned infant whose parents were murdered by the darkest villain imaginable. But The Night Circus begins with a girl who’s halfway orphaned and left in the care of her disturbed illusionist father. Her father soon enters her into a competition that will eventually turn deadly, and even though that isn’t clarified for some time, it’s clearly where the book is leading from the very beginning.

I’m not done. Not yet. And this happens every time I read a beautiful book—I just don’t want it to be over, so I delay the inevitable conclusion, the closing of the book, the part where I have to force myself to move on to something different. And the books on deck are promising—Ready Player One is a sci-fi title about which people can’t shut up; Why We Broke Up is essentially a picture book for young adults, and The Liars’ Club is a memoir written in a truly unique tone that I’m looking forward to revisiting.

But I have to finish The Night Circus first. And I don’t want to close that book.

Memoirs and essay collections are the hardest, I think. I can reread a novel and recapture the emotion of reading it for the first time because I inevitably missed something or many things. But essays, memoirs, deeply personal accounts of someone’s real life—that’s something that resonates the first time and never quite does the same way again. Sure, I’ll reread Love is a Mix Tape or a Chuck Klosterman collection or a favorite David Sedaris book, but I’ll never cry as much or laugh as hard as I did the first time. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, Rob Sheffield’s follow-up to Love is a Mix Tape, sat on the shelf on my side of the bed for months before I read the final essay. I just didn’t want that experience to come to a close. It did anyway. And now I just have to wait for Sheffield’s next book. It’ll almost certainly be nearly as good as Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, but I’m going to have to do the thing where I finish the book all over again.

It’s a curse of being a reader, isn’t it? Eventually you have to say goodbye to your initial reactions to whatever beautiful book you’ve stumbled upon. But in a way that’s a blessing, because it means you’re going to move forward to something new. And that something new might not be as absorbing as what came before it. But eventually, something else will. It could be something completely unexpected, something you weren’t sure about, something you wanted to be good and actually is. It can be part of a genre you never wanted to delve into, but you’re so glad you did. Or it can be something new from that novelist that feels like an old friend at this point.

And that’s why we keep reading, because something new and captivating is always in one way or another on its way.


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