Every now and then, I’ll hear about a book that’s getting a lot of buzz. I’ll decide to read that book, trying to keep my expectations low for fear that it won’t be what I’d hoped. But Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch exceeded my expectations. It’s not just because Tartt created a great story or wrote beautiful prose. Rather, I liked the book so much because both of these elements were crafted so exquisitely.
The fast-moving plot kept me turning pages when I should have gone to bed. But the language caused me to pause, think and feel, to climb out of myself and into the world of protagonist Theo Decker. I can’t remember the last time a book so strongly made me both want to speed up to find out what happens and slow down to relish in the writing.
My only regret is that I reached the end of The Goldfinch while reading in bed one night, and I had to try to fall asleep when all I really could do (and all I wanted to do) was stay awake and think about the book.
It’s been almost a week since I finished reading The Goldfinch. I haven’t started another book yet—which is unusual for me—for no other reason than I am still steeped in it, not ready to let it go, returning several times to the last 20 pages or so to reread and resubmerge myself in it.
It’s when you have a reading experience like I did with The Goldfinch that you realize how powerful literature can be. The characters are seen so clearly. You can feel their presence beside you. You’re not being told someone’s story; you’re there living it with them.
I know many readers have pledged to read 50 books this year, but it’s just not something I can get behind. Maybe I’ll read less than 50; maybe I’ll read more. But I don’t see how the amount of books read should be more important than the experiences we have with them. If your focus is on the quantity of books, or on the speed of getting through them, you risk missing something that might hit you in a way you hadn’t imagined if only you gave it the chance.
It can be tempting to read as much as possible. There are so many books and so little time. But try to take a step back when you’re in the midst of the book. Savour the pages. And try to take a moment to let it all sink in when you’ve finished. Some of the greatest moments that come from a book can occur after you’ve turned the last page.