(A modified version of this post has been published in The Hindu Open Page. You can read it here)
I’m not sure if it has anything to do with my OCD, but I can never leave a book half-way and go on to read a new book. It’s not possible to judge a book by its first few pages, so I proceed with the hope that it would get better. What if the story had a good twist, and what If I missed it? Sometimes it gets better, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a risk that I know I have to take. And a good book, makes it worth the risk.
A friend of mine, who is also a voracious reader, sets a book aside the moment she loses interest. Even if it’s within the first 20 pages. When I happened to talk with her about this habit of ours, we realized that both of us were at two extremes. We joked about how each one should have a threshold. She said that the threshold should be slightly higher for her (so that she doesn’t miss a book that might get better with the story) and slightly lower for me (so that I wouldn’t have to waste my time reading not-so-good books), considering our reading habits. Fair enough!
Fortunately for me, I’ve never regretted reading any book. Thanks to blurbs, they help me decide whether it is the kind of book that I normally read. But there is more to a book that what It says so in the blurbs. It can be better or worse. You never know that till you finish the book. Yes, there have been instances when the plot would’ve been weak, or a cocktail of two of more old plots, unnecessary deviations, characters and what not. But I wouldn’t go to the extent of calling them bad. As long as there is at least one person who likes the book, I feel it can never be bad. It’s just that we might not have liked it.
So, when someone who wanted to start reading (it’s never late, you know!) asked me how I could find out if a book was good enough, I couldn’t give a convincing answer. What might be good for me, might not necessarily be good for others. Since I come from a family of voracious readers, my sister and father helped me initially by picking out books for me and recommending their favourites. Gradually I could read blurbs and find out, to an extent, if I would enjoy reading. Now I know what people mean when they say some things can be learnt only from experience.
There are many aspects which have to be considered before one comes to a conclusion about the book. For me it’s the story and then the writing style and of course the characters.
So what do you look for in a book? And at what point do you decide if a book is worth the entire journey? Do share your thoughts!
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