On Dating Books

While we at the Riot are taking this lovely summer week off to rest (translation: read by the pool/ocean/on our couches), we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Wednesday, July 8th.

This post originally ran June 4, 2015.
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There are so many seemingly arbitrary decisions and events that have affected my bookish life and, consequently, my bookish loves. What if I’d never received Harry Potter for my twelfth birthday? Would I have bothered reading more fantasy? What if I’d never taken Good Omens with me on that epic trip to Malaysia? Would I have ever written my thesis on Coraline? What if The Lynburn Legacy had never been recommended to me? Would I have ever reconsidered my prejudices toward YA romance? It feels like heaven and earth have conspired to bring these books (and yes, fellow fans and friends) into my life. On the one hand, I cannot help but look back and marvel at these serendipitous relationships. On the other, I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing. There are several factors that can keep readers and books apart— age, culture, language— but sometimes I worry that the problem is in the way I approach books.

Typically, my advances fall under one of four scenarios:

Scenario One: The Speed-Dating Buying/Borrowing

I don’t know what book I want. I just want a book. Ugh. Each and every one of you have horrible covers. Oh, wait, you’re kind of cute. No decapitated girls on your cover = a solid first impression. Wonder what will happen when I open you up. Hmm. “Awkward boy genius investigates mysterious neighbour girl”? Oh. Um. Never mind. (I’ve regretted this decision sometimes. I mean, it costs nothing to take a book out of the library. Why didn’t I pick up the fantastic Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty before? I’ll tell you why: I loathed the cover. And now, the series is a little old and I’m much more preoccupied with Bray’s The Diviners, putting the completion of this one on the back-burner. I literally have to la-la-la when people talk spoilers.)

Scenario Two (A): The Highly Anticipated Set-Up

*leans seductively* Why hello there, fairytale retelling. My Tumblr speaks highly of you. I love the people who have tweeted about you. Guess I’m open to giving you a chance even though no one I know IRL speaks well of you, or at all. (Strangely, these have rarely gone wrong. *hugs Malinda Lo’s Ash*)

Scenario Two (B): The Set-Up You Can’t Get Out Of

I don’t trust my school/university’s reading lists. I probably already hate you. You’re probably by a dead white guy. You have the feminist outlook of a male dolphin. Alternatively, you’re just classic enough to show up in all my classes but contemporary and “adult” enough that everything is about heartbreak and nothing is about dragons. (Confession: I didn’t love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies in high school and I didn’t love it in World Literature class in university, either. Yes, this is quite the shameful declaration for a non-resident Indian to make.)

Scenario Three: We Are My OTP

My personality and reading habits are primed to accept you as my next long term read. My friends and peers agree that we look good together. My fingers run down your spine and that Christina Perri song plays in my head because, yes, it does feel like I’ve died everyday waiting for you. My blogposts about you read like fluffy fanfics. I may not always relate to you but I promise to love you— flaws and all— because you’ll probably do the same for me.

See, what’s alarming to me is the ease with which Scenario Two can change into Scenario Three. Timing, as any philosopher or comedian will tell you, is vastly important. What you do in a matter of an hour can mean the difference between The One That Got Away and The Happy Ever After. How you change within the span of a year can mean the difference between a Casual Read and a Drift Compatible Book. The question that haunts me time and again, is how do I decide which book to try again? How many “second” chances are too many?

There is one good thing that has come out of this self-analysis: I no longer read too much into book recommendations that receive lukewarm responses. Sometimes it’s the book. Sometimes it’s the reader. Sometimes it’s the timing. And since I have no power over the misaligned stars, I am much more willing to let it go. Unless, we’re talking Unspoken, then it’s ON! Well, at least I’m trying. Until then, *picks up Interpreter of Maladies* how about we give it another go, dear?

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