"I’ve drawn a tentative conclusion about what makes a book good. It’s tentative, so I could be convinced otherwise, and I should also say that I have in mind principally nonfiction books, although I suspect a similar principle applies to fiction as well. Here goes: The best books are hard to read."
– Dave Zimmerman, Loud Time
Here’s yet another instance of someone saying what I’ve been thinking better than I would’ve thought or said or blogged.
My wife is reading a book right now that I suggested, one that I liked and wanted to emulate as far as style – Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin. It’s slower, a little more thoughtful and feeling and descriptive. She nailed it: no wonder you like this, because it’s very much like Faulkner, taking three pages to describe a meal. I like books like this, those that draw me as the reader into the story, into the emotion, into the feelings and sensations.
And I would think that fits into Dave’s statement above, being "hard to read" because it takes time to get into a moment like that, to get into a plot that’s thickening with the real stuff of life. The best books right now are those that don’t say the same old thing in some new pithy way, but that instead stretch me, make me read that last paragraph again because it just feels like I missed something. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I’m drawn into good stories that make good points that raise good questions that challenge me and what I bring to the pages with me.
I’ve gotten a few "easy books" over the past month or so, and they just stack up for the most part, not drawing me in, not challenging me towards anything positive. Whether it’s the writing or the topic or just the vibe, I just can’t get past the first few chapters, and I can’t find the time to finish them up properly. But then there’s a stack of "these should be hard to read" books that taunt me a bit, that grin and bear their teeth and tease me to get engaged. Those are the ones that find the way into my laptop bag, into my carry-on, into my luggage or onto the passenger seat when leaving the house. I don’t find time to read them, either. With these, I make time, compelled to chew on things that matter.