I’ve Totally Had that Feeling About A Few Books

I had five minutes to read the funnies today – which is rare and also completely excellent – and today’s “Frazz” made me grin. I know a lot of writerly motivational sites have various running or driving analogies for the process of writing, from driving in total darkness with your low beams on to ultra marathon running.

Sometimes reading is like that for me – the running part. I try not to read while I’m driving. Sometimes I run shabbily as fast as I can just to get to the end because I just want to know what happens. Sometimes I set a slower pace and force myself not to go to fast because the pace heightens my reading enjoyment. And sometimes I have to walk down the stairs backwards when I’m done because the book is following me around for days afterward. What books are like that for you?

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Fun And Games

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  1. 1
    darlynne says:

    Rumer Godden’s “In This House of Brede” is one I always read at a slower pace in order to savor every word. I will probably never live in a cloistered Benedictine abbey, but I can still hear the bells of the divine office.

    Jasper Fforde’s books generally have me walking backwards afterwards, primarily because I’m wondering how the heck he does what he does. I frequently lament the holes in my knowledge of literature when I’m done.

    If I race through a book, it is usually a new one about which I am very excited, J.R. Ward’s, for example. Then I have to re-read several times in order to catch details.

    Where to fit the wall-bangers? The last one had me standing at my bookshelves for A Very Long Time, angry and terrified (in a non-life threatening way, of course) of choosing another one just like it. I’ll call those my Vigilante Stand: pull that again and I will shoot.

  2. 2
    Kim Lenox says:

    I’m finishing up Amanda Steven’s deliciously creepy THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS, which I have really, really enjoyed. I’ve paced myself on it, saving it so I could read each night in bed, and listen to the creaks in my house and wonder, “What was that?!!” The story is, yes, following me around during the day. In a good way.

  3. 3
    Susan says:

    A book that haunted me so much that I had to read it twice was House of Gentle Men by Kathy Hepinstall. The first time I raced through it, partly to find out what happened next, partly because I was disturbed/intrigued by what was going on; the second to savor each word because the book was very, very well written.

    I’m not sure that I agree with the ending (read it to find out why) but her themes of atonement and redemption stayed with me long after I finished it. My old college roommate still has it (even he read it in a short amount of time, and was pleased with it – and he was an English Major)
    *shakes fist in the air, cursing graduation and failed communications attempts*.

  4. 4
    Ain says:

    Finally de-lurking here, because I just finished this book – Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. I could not put it down,

    I usually race through books, being impatient to know the ending. Then I read again at a slower pace, to savour the book, unless it is a complete wallbanger and I send it back to the library or UBS.

    Jasper Fforde’s books make go backwards too and sometimes I have to pause and Google stuff because of the allusions and various references. His books make me realize what an ignoramus I am.

  5. 5
    kathie says:

    Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper” – absolutely didn’t see the ending coming, I still think about it.  And, lately, Barbara Delinsky’s “The Secret Between Us” – I disagree so strongly with so many of the actions in that book, that I want to call up the author and find out what she was thinking. . . still thinking about it.

  6. 6
    Nik says:

    I always promise myself I’ll savour every word of AS Byatt’s Possession, and about two thirds of the way through, I’m on a speed train because I get caught up in the action. 

    A new LM Bujold always merits two reads.  One fast, to get to the end.  And then another, a week or so later (once my husband has had a chance to read the book too), at a slower pace.

  7. 7
    SusanA says:

    Jodi Picoult’s “My sister’s Keeper” annoyed me no end because I felt the ending was a complete cop out and I have refused to read any more of her books for that reason. She set up a story of morality and choices and balances and interesting shades of gray and the cops out at the ending by pulling the old switcheroo instead of making a hard choice.

    In contrast Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana wove so many stories, so much layered tragedy all centred around the actions of the villain. And we see the villain do trully horrendous things, but he is so well written that in the end you feel you understand him and that in many ways he is a noble human – but still a villain. It’s the only time an author has made me cry by killing the bad guy. That was an emotional marathon. Years later I still think about it.

  8. 8
    Rae says:

    I have to second both the vote for Sunshine and the WTF cop out about Sister’s Keeper.

    As far as other suggestions for books that compliment Frazz today…Wuthering Heights.

  9. 9
    Wry Hag says:

    I think I prefer an eating metaphor to a running metaphor.  (Well, hell, if you could see my hips, you’d know why!) 

    Some books I gobble without savoring—in fact, often without chewing.  Kind of like trying to get through a meal I feel I must eat but am not really enjoying.  I have little patience for the process and just want to get to the end of it, because it hasn’t fully engaged me.

    Other books I gobble because they’re so delish (kind of like Alaskan king crab with drawn butter and fresh lemon juice, or perfectly made blintzes with some sinful filling).  I’ll read ‘til my eyes are about to fall out.  But under these circumstances, I do relish the experience.  Every verbal bite is a delight, and I’m sorry when it’s over.

    Then, of course, there are those meals (or foods) and books that almost immediately hit my gag button.  A little taste, a grimace…and I’m done.

  10. 10
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Atonement was an odd blend for me.  The beginning went very slow and while I’m a very fast reader as a general rule, this one I just let build.  Then, the second third of the book was very fast because of the building action, the final third, about a medium pace because I was sitting there thinking, “Oh, there’s no way…”  And then the epilogue, I read very, very slowly, going, “Oh, that bastard McEwan, I can’t believe he did that.”

    Hell of a reading experience.

    Now Anne Rivers Siddons’ Heartbreak Hotel is my savoring book.  I read it about once every six months and I just love lingering over every page and the imagery.  She’s who I want to write like when I grow up.  :)

  11. 11

    When I re-read Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles, which I do every few years, I have to slow down to absorb it and then do the “walk down the stairs backward” to work it through my mind one more time.

    Most recently the two other books that have affected me that way are Susan Palwick’s The Shelter and Anthony Capella’s The Wedding Officer.

  12. 12
    Susan/DC says:

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Hundred Years of Solitude was a book I raced through at first but then read slower and slower as I approached the finish because I just did not want it to end.  OTOH, I’ve loved the language in some of Annie Proulx’s books, but she’s just so damn mean to so many of her characters that her books should come with a warning label.  Thomas Hardy is the same way.  His description of the wind sighing over the moors like a lover (The Return of the Native) is just one example of how perfectly he can set a scene, but I couldn’t live on a diet of only Proulx and Hardy no matter how beautifully they write.

    Like Barb Ferrer, I found Atonement a walking down the stairs backward kind of book—shattering and one that made me totally unfit to read anything else for a few days.  I had a similar reaction to Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, even though the narrator (Death) had warned the reader of what was to come.

  13. 13

    Richard Russo’s Straight Man—he predicted my life in academia long before I knew I would become the MC in his novel. I’ve read it at least 3 times. I’ve read it outloud to colleagues, much to their annoyance.

    Katherine Neville’s The Eight, smarter than the Da Vinci Code, ahead of her time, and another one I’ve read at least 3 times, once while in Paris, where half her book takes place.

    I was very angry at the ending of Atonement. I felt cheated, ripped off, as if the ending had been: “…and then I woke up and it was all a dream.”

    Ditto the Life of Pi. What was all the hype on that anyway? My former book club ooed and ahhed all over that very long allegory. My read: life is a tiger. Okay. Done. Next?

  14. 14
    Mac says:

    Susan/DC—same reaction on The Book Theif.  I read all 550 pages in about seven hours and was useless for a few days after that.  So. Amazing.  (Actually, I messed myself up by going on a Devastating-YA-Lit-by-Brutal-Sadists bender for a week—“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Alexie Sherman, “After the Wreck” by Joyce Carol Oates, “What I Was” by Meg Rosoff, who needs to be far more popular than she is, and “The Book Thief” to cap it all off.)

    I was incredibly disappointed by the end of “My Sister’s Keeper,” but I have to be honest and admit that it’s because it was such a well-crafted, amazing work before it, with so many scenes and turns of phrase that I was jealous of, that the ending was a come-down. On a mediocre book it would have been a fine ending.

    “The Secret Between Us”—I could tell the author was a good writer, but she was really, really phoning it in. If everyone in the book is so adept at discussing ALL their feelings to death, why should I believe they have problems, again? And the resolution was a cheat.

    “Tigana” was my favorite book for years.

    I’ve listened to my “Coraline” book on tape possibly more than twenty times now.  “Good Omens” still makes me cry.

    (Heh.  “boys49”?  I’ll let everyone else come up with their own unspoken joke.)

  15. 15
    SonomaLass says:

    Tigana, and to a slightly lesser degree everything else by GG Kaye, were so good that I re-read them quite frequently.  It was Lions of Al-Rassan most recently for me.  Those books haunt me, with their complex endings where people pay real prices, and where HEA is nuanced and touched with sorrow and sacrifice.  Just wow.

    Last summer, when the final Harry Potter book came out, I promised myself that I would savor it. But I was on holiday, with lots of free reading time, and in one afternoon I was horrified to find myself more than halfway through the book!  So I went back and re-read the book to that point—then as I read each new chapter, I went back and re-read the whole thing again.  My DP thought I was crazy, but it was the only way I could slow myself down enough to really appreciate the book the way I wanted to, knowing it was the last time I would ever read a new Harry Potter novel. 

    I also frequently re-read books by Terry Pratchett.  Their charm is such that novelty isn’t necessary—I find myself laughing and saying, “Oh, I’d forgotten that.”  Delightful.

    Lots of books haunt me when I have just finished them.  Outlander stayed with me for days AND kept creeping into my conversation.  Yeah, it really got to me.

  16. 16
    darlynne says:

    Eight! Good Omens! Love these books. Thanks for the reminders.

  17. 17
    Madeleine says:

    Mmmm, everytime I finish a book by Sarah Monette or Michelle Sagara (West) I feel like I’ve just finished a hunger strike. Not because I actually forget to eat, but because the adrenaline builds up inside me until the book’s done.

    Don Quixote is the marathon feeling. Totally worth it. God, that book! It’s so brilliant.

  18. 18
    Robinjn says:

    Hmmmm. For Marathons, the author that comes to mind is Arturo Perez-Reverte. My favorites of his include The Nautical Chart with such lovely descriptions that I can see and smell Seville, along with The Seville Communion. They demand a slow, steady pace.

    Walking down the steps backwards? Neal Stephenson, almost everything. I could not get into his baroque series at all but Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon, wow. I didn’t understand half of it and was still blown away.

    Galloping through? Lilith Saintcrow, Gabaldon, Briggs, Harrison, all my favorite urban fantasy authors. Oh and early LKH (now I cannot stand to read her stuff). These books have me so hooked. I try to slow down. I start getting anxious as I see the remaining pages getting smaller than those read. But I find myself unable to rein in. On these a second read is mandatory because sometimes I find I’ve skipped entire sentences, even important ones!

  19. 19
    Delos says:

    For me, everytime I finish a book by Patricia A. Mckillip, I’m left feeling slightly dazed. She’s my favorite, and for the first read I speed through the book, and then savor it on the second.

    The Labyrinth Key by Howard V. Hendrix left me with the walking backwards feeling, but it was so good. (And cool sidenote, I’ve taken a class taught by Hendrix).

    Robinjn: If you like Neal Stephenson, you should check out Hendrix, he’s mind boggling but good.

  20. 20
    Gail Dayton says:

    Wry Hag, I like the food metaphor for reading too. And I’m mostly a gobbler. I’m too impatient for most “book club” type books, and to be honest, I don’t Care how pretty the writing is. I notice if it’s pretty and think, oh, how nice, I notice a lot if it’s horrible, but I honestly don’t Care. What I want is the story.

    It has to be well written, or I’ll drop it, because I’m too impatient to wrestle my way through badly written stuff. And sometimes, that lovely, lyrical, descriptive stuff will just give me hives. I Want The Story.

    So I pretty much gobble everything. Some of it I go back and read again. Sometimes more than once. SIMPLE JESS by Pamela Morsi (from a great number of years ago) was one of the first I re-read twice immediately after my first reading of it.

    If it’s really good, I’ll re-read immediately. If It’s good, I’ll re-read after a short time.

    And yes, some books leave me walking down the stairs backwards—SHADOWHEART by Kinsale was one of them. There have been others, but I can’t think what they are right now. Book memory loss is the downside of Book Gluttony.

  21. 21
    mrs.mj says:

    Wow SB Sarah! The way you put it explains completely how I feel when I’m reading. Some books, though, have me running away not towards. Phillipa Gregory’s The Favored Child followed me around, making me feel icky and yet I had to get to the end. It was like jogging up a steep hill. I’m reading Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue and I can feel the characters hovering next me, waiting for my thoughts to wander so they can sneak in. my security word was “waiting11”. Curious.

  22. 22

    If I race through a book, it is usually a new one about which I am very excited, J.R. Ward’s, for example. Then I have to re-read several times in order to catch details.

    My husband thinks I’m odd because I frequently do this – but maybe it’s because I’ll just finish, turn back to page one and start over again immediately.

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