Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joy Luck Club*

It’s coming on back-to-school time again, and I’m only now beginning to realize that I’ve missed out on summer reading this year. My summer was spent instead on TV marathons and summer blockbusters. This would explain why my last two blog posts were inspired by TV shows rather than books. Have you ever just felt tired of reading? I have, so you’ll forgive me if I’ve given myself a break these last few months. Maybe TV-watching was my summer reading. Think of it as my way of giving my brain a vacation. School officially starts tomorrow here in my hometown, so I guess that means that it’s time to get back to work.

I do want to get back into a rhythm, but it’s been difficult to work myself up to that necessary level of excitement. However, in an attempt to find the joy of books again, I’ve been trying to think back to a time when I was enthusiastic about reading. Which begs the question: What was the last really good book I ever read? I can tell you, but first let me tell what it’s not. It’s not a Harry Potter book. It’s not a Twilight book. It isn’t a Shakespeare play or Austen or Dickens. Can you guess what it was?

The answer: Lord of the Rings.

The key to identifying a really good book is that you want to reread it again as soon as you finish it. Or read more, as in the case of a book series. Then you want to read it again, no matter how many times you've read it before. I've only read Lord of the Rings once, but nevertheless, it is still part of this club. Perhaps if the movies hadn’t come out so soon after I’d finished LOTR, I would have reread the book by now. But it’s a good thing the movies did come out when they did because I was a quick fanatic. Such books are few and far between. They are in a club all their own, beyond academics and above hype.

Matilda also belongs in this category for me, the book I read four times in a row when I was younger and could still pick up today with complete anticipation. To Kill a Mockingbird came later. I love To Kill a Mockingbird because I can pick it up, begin reading at any chapter, and still get lost in the story. It took time for me to warm to The Giver, but I came around. I think I was too young when I read it the first time, but giving it a second try made me want to give it a third.

Harry Potter counts, too, but strangely, I had also been so busy trying to finish the series, wondering what was going to happen next, and reading the books so quickly once I got them that I get the feeling I never took the time to really savor them. Harry Potter is a special circumstance because it is simultaneously a great book experience and a regrettable one.

Matilda, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, Lord of the Rings. A very short list considering the amount of books I’ve read. It’s a very elite club, but they wouldn’t be so special if you read books like that every day. My very own Joy Luck Book Club. Joy, because I’m happy to have discovered them, and Luck because, well, I’m also lucky to have found them. No one knows for certain which books will hit all the right notes for any given person, even oneself. But that is what good fortune is: Joy and Luck. You may have to do a lot of reading to find the gems, but once you do, they are valuable beyond words.

Edit: I would also add A Christmas Carol to this list.

*Joy Luck Club is my favorite book by Amy Tan. Also, it was the first book I read of hers. I also recommend The Bonesetter's Daughter.

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