Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Book That Finds You

In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society, the main character receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey who has come into possession of a old book she once owned and had to sell many years prior. She wonders how the book got to Guernsey since she sold it in London. "Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true!," she says.

Call me nutty, but part of me believes that you don't find the book as much as the book finds you. Think about the books you have read in the last year and how you came to decide to read them. Sure, you have your favorite authors and put those titles on hold at the library, but weren't there just as many books that you read because you: 1. saw the cover and liked it; 2. the blurb on the back mentioned "Venice" and you were in Venice twenty years ago and it's your favorite city in the world; 3. were told by a friend that it was a good book and that's all you knew before you read it; 4. found the book at a book sale and the price was right - $1. How do these books know to cross our path?

Naysayers will claim this is simple coincidence, but I say otherwise. These special books seem to have a mystical type of intelligence that operates independent of reason and logic. Why was my new apartment immaculately cleaned when I moved in except for an old copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? I read it and it quickly became one of my favorite books.

Or what about the time one of my friends in Los Angeles was talking about something that happened to her in Echo Park and then Michael Connelly's book Echo Park came out the next day. (Read it. Loved it.)

Perhaps the character in Guernsey was right. We don't choose the books as much as the books choose us. What books have chosen you?


Karen said...

My brother gave me A.S. Byatt's Possession as a birthday gift quite a few years ago. I generally don't like getting books as gifts because I am "fussy" about what I like. It sat gathering dust for quite some time. Not even sure what made me give it a whirl a couple of years later. It is now my favorite novel of all time and I've probably given it a half-dozen readings. I haven't had too many other experiences like that, but that book definitely found me.

Roberta said...

Three Junes by Julia Glass. It was face out on the shelf and something about the cover appealed to me. It was really wonderful. For two weeks it was my own little discovery, and then it won The National Book Award. I was stunned because it has been years since I read something award-worthy.

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