On Books and Emotions

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I haven’t posted as many book review in a while, despite the large to-read stack that I walk past everyday. This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. I keep picking up new books and setting them down again, unfinished.
    • This is getting better, even if it is a slow process.
  2. I’ve turned to rereading well loved favorites. Binging them between trying to read something new.

All of this has got me thinking on why people reread books. I cannot speak for other but for me, personally, rereading a well beloved book is like meeting with old friends again. I know the characters, the story, the world. There is a sense of comfort to not read into the unknown. In these crazy times, when I reread a book, I know what to emotions to expect. Please note that the majority of my opinions are based off of the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and folklore with the occasional non-fiction tossed in for good measure.

All my rereading got me thinking about other books that evoked a different types of emotional response when I read them. My favorite example is Friday Night Lights, yes the book, not the show. The reader knows early on how the 1988 football season is going to end for the Permian Panthers of Odessa. However, reading the recollection of the final game of the seasons from various points of view; the hope, the fear, the determination. The emotions wrap the reader up the writing is so well done. I don’t even like football that much but this book was so well done that I still think about it. This book also frustrates me because of how clear a picture it paints regarding the importance of football to small towns. I just want to tell those people that their happiness should not weight down the shoulders of high school athletes, there is more to like and this world than high school football. If you are interested in a well written non-fiction book, I do recommend Friday Night Lights, even if you are not a football fan.

From frustrating realities we are going to move on to something uncomfortable: embarrassment. The number of books that I have read that lead to a sense of second hand embarrassment is way too high. These are moments are mostly found, for me at least, in coming of age books. The protagonist or someone similar to them in age does something stupid or embarrassing because of innocent ignorance or bravado or pride. Yes, this does tend to be the male protagonists but I think this is for a couple of reasons:

  1. There are more stories written with male protagonists.
  2. There is an expectation of young men to do stupid things and that expectation ends up in books.
  3. We like reading about a bit of mostly harmless chaos, without it stories are less fun to read.

That’s not to say that I haven’t seen these types of actions by leading ladies but it is not quite a common. The most recent example is in A Natural History of Dragons. This series is written as a memoir and its nice for a character to tell on themselves and be open about their youthful shortcomings.

My favorite books though, evoke a more physical reaction. A heart pounding chase or tension in a scene. One of my favorites is in Wizards First Rule, there is a scene where the main character is passing through an increasingly narrow cave and he has to breath out to escape and has to take shallower and shallower breaths. I realized as I was reading this scene the first time that I was holding my breath with the character.

The stories that I love are the ones that make me feel, the ones where I can connect to the characters or the situation, the ones that get me thinking. What type of stories do you connect to? What is your favorite book? Let me know in the comments and happy reading!

Thank you KW Photography for allowing me to use your wonderful photos!

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