Today I finished what was perhaps the best book I have read in years, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It has been a long time since I read a book that engaging. It was wonderful.
For me, the mark of a good book is one I think about it when I am not reading. I can’t wait to find out what happens and I feel like I’m missing the action when I’m not reading. I force myself to read every word in a book I am enjoying, because I know I will wish it isn’t over when I’m done. A great book provokes sleepless nights, thinking about the characters and wondering what will happen. A great book end far too soon. This is one I’ll keep thinking of for a while. Great books have something other than plot… there is something to learn from them, in them. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a happy ending with everything tied up in a happy little bow, but closure is good. Others in the same category were any number of John Irving’s books, Carol Shields’ Unless, Memoirs of a Geisha, a few others not springing to mind. They are books I would read again, except that the sense of anticipation would be lost with a subsequent reading, and the experience would undoubtedly be paler. Anyway, there is so much in the world to read, I don’t really like the idea of re-reading something. I might not have time to finish everything I want to if I waste time on books I’ve already been through. It’s a good thing there’s nothing worth watching on tv these days.
The Kite Runner is a book I would never have picked up, I don’t really know why, except that a book club I have joined is reading it. I had no preconceived ideas about plot or themes or style. I did not know what to expect: it might have been too literary and heavy to keep my interest. It may have been a subject matter that didn’t appeal. But it caught my attention with the first page. Had I the time to read it straight through, I would have. One day this week, I turned down a free ride home so I could have 45 minutes on the bus to read. With a bit of challenge to my self control, I stopped reading at a reasonable hour at night so I could get some sleep, and so I could drag it out a bit longer… like Charlie nibbling away at his Wonka chocolate bar to make it last, I knew I wouldn’t want it to end. And now that it has, I wish I hadn’t read it so fast. It’s a balance… desperate to know what will happen, predicting the empty hours that will follow.
The other problem with a really good read, is how to follow it. Sometimes, if an author has written more than one book, the answer is easy. Kite Runner was a first novel. I want something equally good now, and despite the hundreds of books I have here, many of which are waiting to be read, I can’t really see what could possibly be as satisfying an experience. My next book has big shoes to fill… which may be unfair, but what can I do? I want something literary like The Kite Runner, but not obscurely so. I don’t feel like anything chick-lit, like the Shopaholics, although I did enjoy those. Not a mystery, not non-fiction. I’m looking for suggestions… I’m going to pick through my shelves now.