For Better or Worse: Readers, Books, and the Marriage between Them

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader with free time must be in want of a good book…and thus begins the curious relationship between reader and the written word, much like that of a courting couple.

You pick up a book and flip through its pages or read the back cover: the first date. Or maybe you meet online, through GoodReads or Amazon. If you like what you read, you get the book’s number…and buy it off Amazon, at a bookstore, or order it from your local library. Then, comes the second date: you read the first few chapters. Hopefully, all goes well and you get drawn in. Otherwise, you break-up and move on.

The relationship gets serious when you read it for the second time, though. You already know a great deal about it—the way the author tells the story, the characters, the plot—yet you are still drawn to open its page (or its eBook file) and read it again. You start telling (and perhaps boring) your friends with details of why you love this book. And finally, you decide to commit and make this book part of your life: it ranks up among your favorites, and you begin to compare other books by its standard.

Ideally, an author takes this relationship into consideration when writing, serving as a matchmaker and thinking about the reader as part of the editing process: Will the reader enjoy this scene? Will that paragraph of description bore them? Does the beginning entice them? Every line is designed to present the book well, like a flattering outfit. Then, the author sends it out, hoping it will find “true love” among those whom it encounters.

The sad thing is, sometimes our relationships with books break down, just like those in real life. There are divorces, where books that once delight us no longer do so—we have moved on, and they haven’t changed. Or perhaps we thought they had more depth when they were really just shallow, meant for a one-night-stand and nothing more.

But the best book relationships are those that last a lifetime, retaining a faithful place in our hearts. We return, time and again, to see new things about the same partner, and we value them more for their companionship, their excellence, and their faithfulness to never let us down when we need them.

Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren

2 thoughts on “For Better or Worse: Readers, Books, and the Marriage between Them

  1. Lovely analogy. I agree that as a reader we often judge books by what we read again and again. I began reading Georgette Heyer’s books when I was around 12 years old. I have never stopped re-reading her books. Her characters, situations, and writing style delight me as much now as then. Whereas there are books I read as a young teen that I enjoyed, but when read recently they are extremely simply written and I feel that they could be so much better if I were able to flesh them out more, why are the characters this way? What if we delved into their personalities and pasts further? What if the sentences were longer or more interesting? What if the plot took longer to develop and shape? Not that they are bad books, but the romance is gone. They are fond relationships from the past, but as far as a lasting marriage…well…that is reserved for others who are more mature, whose structure and depth will never become shallow, no matter how many years may pass.

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