No two people read the same book, even when it appears to be identical, with the same author, same cover, same publication date, and same pagination.
And that’s a good thing. Pearl boils down in one sentence why we read and blog and talk about books and have book clubs and sometimes get angry because other readers don’t agree with us and bond with readers who do.
Personally, I really really like when readers leave comments saying they really enjoyed a book I did not or liked an aspect of a book I didn’t think worked at all. Heck, I don’t even always agree with myself, as you can see from this post about Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series.
Why is reading such a unique and individual experience? I’m a 30-year-old white girl who boasts Cajun and Native American roots, who lives in Texas, votes Democrat, and really likes to drink wine (and some beer). I have siblings, and my parents are still married. I am single and childless. I own my own home and love to decorate it. I have a dog. Though there may be some of you saying to yourself, “well idn’t that special” – why yes, it is. Because though the composites may be similar, there is no one person out there exactly like me… at least, that’s what my momma always told me.
Who we are informs our reading choices, preferences and experiences. As Robertson Davies says (and Nancy Pearl quotes), “Reading is exploration, extension, and reflection of one’s innermost self.” If we did all look at one book in the exact same manner, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of room for discussion. Instead, we meet one another on our respective journeys, reflecting what we have seen and discovered in a work. The book we see, read, or listen to is different for each one of us.
Pearl also points out that even if we re-read a book, it’s slightly different because we are different. Tonight on Twitter, I talked to Matt from A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook. He was talking about really enjoying Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead. I picked it up in high school and loathed it, but I trust his reading tastes, and I thought of Pearl’s words. Twelve years have passed since that skinny, naive girl picked up The Fountainhead and set it aside. The slightly overweight, much more informed me may stick with it a bit longer. Life has happened in 12 years.
What I enjoy about this blog and hope to foster in some small way is the space for readers with different sensitivities, cultures, backgrounds, families, careers, and lifestyles to comment and discuss books, a bookish life, and how words inform their own lives. Your comments and our discussion broaden my own life, and honestly, that’s why I read in the first place.
So, are we on the same page? I hope not. Talking about books would be much less interesting if so.
jenn aka the picky girl