I've been giving some thought to why we read. What is it we're looking to find in those pages? The answer is different for each of us. I read to learn, and to feel. I love a book because its characters charm me, or the story stirs me. But what does it mean when we don't like what we find between the covers? Recently, I had the opportunity to really ruminate on what happens when I hate a book.
And then the author did something so unthinkably cruel and awful, I felt like I'd actually been punched in the stomach. This book had me crying a few times, but at that moment all I felt was white-hot, visceral rage and I threw the book across the room. I'm serious. I've never done that before. It was automatic, an unconscious impulse. One moment I was reading, and the next, the book was hurling through the air. I went from loving it to hating it in one sentence.
I left the book lying where it landed for at least a day. But I did eventually finish it, fuming the entire time. I felt so manipulated, and so stupid for believing all the things the author had me believing.
And I could not let it go. It was all I thought about, all I talked about.
Around this time I came across a blog called I Hate Cheryl Strayed. Fans of Cheryl Strayed may want to steer clear, this woman's anger is for real. I read a few posts of her 39-part review of Wild. 39 parts!!!!! After that, she goes on to review the movie version, and then Cheryl's other book Tiny Beautiful Things. The blog is entertaining but I didn't really understand; if she hated the book so much, why waste so much time on it?
And I thought about the book I threw across the room. I wasn't writing a blog about it (though now I am), but I certainly spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it. And, after all, I did finish it. The writing is beautiful and the characters really did feel like friends. I wanted to feel something, and I certainly did. So, did I really hate it that much? Or perhaps the better question; did I really care that I hated it that much?
Whatever else this book was to me, it was an experience, and I'm glad I read it. And with a little time and perspective of what real book-hatred looks like, I can even say I liked it. I'm not saying there aren't books out there that I legitimately hate, I am not one to find value in a book simply because it's a book. And I'm not saying that the blogger above doesn't legitimately hate Wild. I'm only saying that I liked this particular book so much that it didn't matter that I hated it.
So the book I swore I would never recommend--I'm recommending it. I hesitate to reveal what book I'm talking about, worried that there may be inadvertent spoilers in this post. So, I'll leave it up to you. Click on through if you want to know.