I recently forgot to bring a replacement book with me to work. I was almost done the book I was reading and knew that it wouldn’t last through lunch and the commute home and yet still my mind shut down and I did not bring the book that was next on my reading list (Yes, I know how anal that sounds.)
Luckily, I work in a library. Although slightly irritated that I was thwarting my list and beginning a book that was not on it, I bravely ventured into the stacks and came out with one that had caught my eye several times. I vaguely remember good reviews about it and I think it won an award, but other than that I had no idea what to expect. I felt very adventurous.
Now, I read at least two books a week. I read fast and most of the books are high on plot and well, a little lacking in the character development and substance area. There are usually some interesting thought provoking characteristics in them but for the most part they do not touch me. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy them. It’s just you can’t have your world shaken up by every single book.
This particular tome was called The Book Thief and it was one of those reads that slightly alter your existence, that open the tear that is your knowledge of the world a little more. At least it was for me. I can’t say that it will do the same for you.
But why? I don’t know. Maybe it was because it was told from the point of view of Death, and Zusak’s death was a character I wouldn’t mind meeting. Having a cup of coffee with. Sitting down on a park bench and shooting the shit with.
Or maybe it is because the man’s imagery sits in my head like rocks on a sidewalk and I keep tripping over them. Images like, “rain like grey pencil shavings.” Or “He wore a face with the blinds drawn.” (I think I screwed that one up- I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment.) And the way he made words solid- the words and the silence between his characters were almost characters on their own, moving and breathing and changing things.
It is billed as a Young Adult novel which makes me very happy. Mostly because it transcends the label, just as the best adult and children’s books do. For some reason, every time I read it, I felt made out of glass. His words worked like a squeegee on a dirty window; wiping away the dirt to revealed a very breakable, reflective surface.
It is not very often that books do that to me and the ones that do have always been a surprise. They are not necessarily on the literary canon. There is just something about their rawness and their ability to reveal a part of the human condition to me that made the experience of reading those books a life-altering one.
Here’s a list ( I do so like my lists):
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
- Mercy among the children by David Adams Richards
- Lullabies for little criminals by Heather O’Neill
Hmm… Now that I look at them all lined up in a row like that, I’m thinking they are not so different after all…