Have you ever picked up a best-selling novel or classic titled tome, started to read and then realized, “Nope, don’t like this, even though I’m supposed to because it is a best-seller/classic/got rave reviews”?
Over the years, I’ve become bolder in my resolve to just put the darn thing down and not waste time in reading something to the end regardless of the supposed fact of its great merit based upon those criteria. Unless it’s required reading for a class, an educational pursuit, part of my editing job, or a general curiosity, those inner promptings that state: “Nope, don’t like this, even if I keep reading it, I won’t find any redeeming quality in it,” are heeded more often than not.
Don’t get me wrong, I give ‘em various opportunities to prove their worth for my reading-time-investment. If in the beginning something doesn’t grab me, I’ll often persist in reading through farther or flip through to a section further along in the book. Honestly, it doesn’t take much for me to give the first round of rejected books redemption based upon a beautifully turned phrase, unique idea, interesting characterization, or point of view.
More often than not, it’s just not the right time in my life to read a particular book, especially if it contains intense material during a time of my own personal upheaval. Because of this, I give myself permission to come back to certain novels at a later time.
Over the course of this past year, I returned to three former book-rejects. In giving them a second chance, they each rose to the task yielding a great reading experience.
You will no doubt be surprised at the three books in question, listed below in no particular order:
1) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
2) The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
3) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
I think at the times I first tried to read these, #1 felt too whiney, #2 felt too hopeless and #3 was just plain boring. Now, however, I present to you these three novels as my personal selections for you to consider reading or re-reading.
Quotes to entice you…
from: The Joy Luck Club
“…my mother often stayed in her room working on her embroidery. In the afternoon, she and I would go on long silent rides in the city, searching for a bolt of silk in a color she could not seem to name. Her unhappiness was the same way. She could not name it.”
“When my daughter looks at me, she sees a small old lady. That is because she sees only with her outside eyes. She has no chuming, no inside knowing of things. If she had chuming, she would see a tiger lady. And she would have careful fear.”
from: The Bean Trees
“We were flattened and sprawled across the rocks like a troop of lizards stoned on the sun, feeling too good to move.”
“But where Estevan’s smallness made him seem compact and springy…Esperanza just seemed to have shrunk. Exactly like a wool sweater washed in hot. It seemed impossible that her hands could be so small, that all the red and blue diamonds and green birds that ran across the bosom of her small blouse had been embroidered with regular-sized needles. I had this notion that at one time in life she’d been larger, but that someone had split her in two like one of those hollow wooden dolls, finding this smaller version inside. She took up almost no space. While the rest of us talked and splashed and laughed she sat still, a colorful outgrowth of rock. She reminded me of Turtle.”
from: The Wind in the Willows
“The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancor…He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”
“This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me, whispered the Rat, as if in a trance.”