What makes a good read??
Reading has remained an all time favorite past time of mine. Though I love the feel of a book in my hand, I am not finicky. I would not mind an e book, a magazine or any pamphlet that I can lay my hands upon! According to me, reading has not only made me happier, but has also helped me gain friends, get a sense of belongingness with a community of book lovers (whom I can immediately relate to anywhere and everywhere), loads of information and an increase in self worth. Apart from this, as I am a psychiatrist by profession, it has helped me enormously in building a rapport with clients of various age groups and different mental make ups.
Till quite recently, my taste in reading was based on the weekly bookseller lists available on the internet, supplements of newspapers or what others rapturously mentioned on facebook! Lack of good bookstores in the town which I live in, would make me buy books which were totally unappealing, but sounded great on the back cover, when I went to Bangalore. And then, there was this problem of being branded. The choice I made would be based on the author I had heard a lot of intelligent and well read people quote. I did want to be in the elite group of the well read, and spout book and author names which I had difficulty in pronouncing.
Needless to say, I had to struggle through a few books waiting for things to end as fast as possible, and even in the end, would not know what the book was all about. Why would I not stop in between?? Partly because I was too proud to admit I did not understand and partly because I would keep feeling that I may understand somewhere along the way and grow a taste for it. Like cheese, which tasted vile to begin with and then gradually tasting better.
After some years of doing this, I finally came to the question – what decides that a book was good?? Was it the level of complexity, was it the fact that at the end, much was left to your imagination, or something which made things stir inside of you- in a good way or bad! Something, which after reading, would make you more stimulated, happy or disturbed enough to want to change something!
Case in point, some books which have gained a lot of attention but failed to impress me in the least are – Ayn Rand’s books—which took me a while to read, but left me confused. What was it all about? This is the first time that I am confidently quoting that I did not understand the profoundness of writing in those books. Haruki Murakami’s books. They cost dearly, but were quite difficult to be pleased with. Another example would be the Lord of the Ring series. Too long, tiny print and all the patience in the world(which sadly I lack).
On the other hand, there were also several books that I really enjoyed reading, but were considered condescending by the true blue book readers, writers and critics alike. Indian authors like Chetan Bhagat, Anuja Chauhan and Preethi Shenoy fell into this category. After a gruelling day at work, these were fast reads and gave me a sense of joie de vivre after which I could tackle another hard day.
I got the courage finally to write about my feelings only because I recently read an article from the New Yorker(apparently a hi fi newspaper) comparing E.L James of the fifty shades of grey fame and Haruki Marukami. And how there were a lot of people who did not understand Marukami. I finally felt normal. And read about Chetan Bhagat’s book sales. More normal.
To end with, I feel I have made accepted that the fact that I am really not one to read complex situations and unfinished endings. Books to me are friends. Some very close, and some others whom I talk with but do not really relate to. I take good reads to mean a good fit. The first few pages should make me want to never keep the book down, make me want to still time, and something which invigorates me. I have learnt never to judge a book by the cover. The style of writing, the pace and the content are what makes me hooked and that is my good read.
Do you agree?