Image from We heart it
The line above is something that I saw printed on a bookmark while browsing in Fully Booked. It’s a line from someone named Samuel Johnson. I liked it so much that I noted it down and even put it up as a status on Facebook and Twitter. It brings to mind previous discussions about being a responsible reader. Shannon Hale actually has a series of posts on her blog on how to be a reader. She had a post back in 2008 that I really liked and I’d like to quote her here:
“I’ve always believed that as an author, I do 50% of the work of storytelling, and the reader does the other 50%. There’s no way I can control the story you tell yourself from my book. Your own experiences, preferences, prejudices, mood at the moment, current events in your life, needs and wants influence how you read my every word.”
I love what she said because it gives readers a certain kind of responsibility. Liking a book isn’t just up to the author, it’s up to us as well. This is probably why I get giddy at the thought of reading a good book. I’m excited by the possibilities presented by a new-to-me book – am I going to love it and will it end up in my list of favorites? Am I going to be sucked in by the world created and am I going to be able to relate to the characters? Even if the book doesn’t live up to my expectations, I still want to read it when I get positive feedback about it because I want to find out what other people liked. I haven’t discovered the book blogosphere back when I read Shannon Hale’s post so what she said resonated with me because I felt like it empowered me as a reader. This is also one of the reasons why I feel bad when writing negative reviews. One of the main reasons why I don’t end up liking a book is because I can’t connect to the story or the characters, so that’s mostly about me and I don’t blame the author. I always acknowledge that even if I don’t like a book, someone else will probably have a positive reaction about it. The theme of being a responsible reader becomes more of an issue now that I blog about books because I feel responsible for my reviews as well. I’m thrilled whenever people say that they picked up a book because of my review but then I get scared that they won’t like it as much as I did.
To further prove her point, Shannon Hale also tackled the topic of rereads and how your opinion changes when you reread a book. This means that you changed as a person and that’s why your understanding of the book also changed, the book stayed the same. Steph has a discussion post about rereading and Tina has one as well. Check out both because they are very insightful. Have you ever experienced changing your view of a book months or even years after you first read it? That has happened to me several times. There are books that I don’t even remember reading and then enjoy as rereads. There are also some books that don’t get as much love from me as when I initially read them and I wonder what I found so fascinating the first time around. I have a feeling this is bound to happen as I discover more books. The ones that I still love after several times of rereading end up in my favorites list (and it’s a list that keeps on changing as I add and remove books). I think a mark of a true favorite is when you can read it over and over again and it never gets old. I believe that how I see a book changes depending on where I am in my life or even depending on something as fickle as my mood. You know how you sometimes say you have to be in a certain kind of mood to read a book? That certainly happens to me.
So here are a couple of questions that I’m throwing out to those who want to discuss. Do you agree with the line, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” and why or why not? Do you feel responsible for your reactions to books or do you think that how good or how bad a book is entirely up to the author? Have you experienced changing what you think of a book after a reread? Are there books that you can reread multiple times and still love? Feel free to comment on anything else that’s related to this topic.