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All my life I have considered myself an avid reader. I chose to study literature, I chose specialize in book publishing and in my spare time, I choose write. This ‘avid reader’ standing should be a given. However, there is another very pesky personality trait of mine that tends to get in the way…

The thing is, I hate change. I hate change, and I love stories.

These may, at first glance, seem like two very separate thoughts that have no business sharing ownership of this week’s blog post, but bear with me for a moment.book-hangover-books-quotes

When I really love a story, I don’t just love it…I live it. Sure, this is what reading is supposed to do…you leave the real world behind, and inhabit a new one. My problem? I tend to have trouble coming back.

In the past, this has resulted in a severe inability to pick up a new, completely unrelated book because I can’t seem to get my mind away from this character, or that circumstance, or the thing that completely blind sighted me.

I suppose since the final Harry Potter I have been trying to fill a void in my reading.  Or, more specifically, I wanted a new book that was young adult fiction and could also seamlessly cross age barriers. A story that continued on for both real and fictional years, that required precise focus to follow an intricate plot but was also an easy read. I wanted a book with characters I could unabashedly cry for… a reading experience that was somehow incredibly personal, but also communal…a world I could leave behind myself and return to moments later with hundreds of others at my side.

In short, I wanted Harry Potter all over again.

It was my impenetrable penchant for comfort and familiarity desperately clinging to a world I wasn’t ready to leave yet, and the result was…in short… a five-year reading drought.

To be fair, I’ve read a great number of books since the summer of 2007 (four years of an English degree exists between then and now, after all), but I never truly felt that ‘avid readerness’ that I had all through my childhood.

Now I don’t wish to discount the books that I have adored since then—The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins being some of my favourites. Though I loved all of these very much in and of themselves, I still was—however unconsciously—searching for that ‘Harry Potter feeling’.

Now, being in book publishing has a lot of perks, not the least of which is having constant book recommendations from peers.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine left a book on my coffee table, and told me I simply had to read it.

Me: What’s it about?

Friend: Baseball.

Me: …

Friend: Well, not just baseball. It’s about baseball and life and love.

Me: …

And then she uttered the magic words:

It’s the kind of book you never want to end.

For hours after she left, I stared at the book on my coffee table. As I did some chores around the house, in between errands, even as a read a different book, I constantly felt my eyes drifting over to glance at it… as if by uttering those words my friend had given the book some sort of power over me.

Do I sound crazy? Good. Because, guess what? I felt crazy.

And finally, after a full day of it taking over my thoughts, I finally picked it up.

artofThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is best described exactly as my friend had done it: a book about baseball and life and love.

Now, I don’t want to turn this post into a desperate plea to get EVERYONE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH TO READ THIS BOOK (except, I really would like you all to, please. Okay, thanks). But, just in case you’re skeptical I want to point out that I know nothing about, nor have any passion for baseball, so that is certainly not a prerequisite to enjoying this book.

The story is just, as simply put as possible, good.

The Art of Fielding reminded me that stories can be quiet and unrushed. They don’t have to reach gasp-worthy peaks to make the journey worthwhile. Characters needn’t rely on extraordinary circumstances and glamourized heroics to be interesting, but can be interesting by default simply by being human.

It reminded me that I don’t need a world of wonder and magic to kick start my imagination. I don’t need shock and surprise to keep me turning pages. I don’t need emotional turmoil and grief to make me feel. I don’t need angst or life-threatening situations to grant me passage into characters’ minds.

…I just need to read.

I am still unsure whether The Art of Fielding really is worthy of the praises I’ve been singing of it to anyone who will listen. It’s possible that it may not deserve that much coveted spot in my heart reserved only for my very favourite stories.

But regardless of that, I do know that the its leisurely pace, introverted characters, and—dare I say it—unapologetic devotion to baseball, reminded me in the most unmistakable of ways, why I read at all.

It’s the kind of book you never want to end…

I read 492 of its 512 pages in three days, and for the last week and a half have carried The Art of Fielding all over the place, unable to let those last 20 pages go.

Let’s pretend this doesn’t mean that I’m right back where I started… hating change and unable to leave worlds behind. Instead, let us pretend that I have learned a very mature lesson and will forever step outside of my comfort zone in my reading.

I mean, baseball… really? Who saw that one coming?

May you all find pleasantly surprising worlds to live in on your reading journeys…

Oh, and may you all rush out to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of The Art of Fielding ASAP.

Have a great almost-weekend!

-A

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