As several people who know me well have pointed out, my trip to California tomorrow has a hidden cost. While I'm hobnobbing with friends of Central Asia, the latest J.K. Rowling book will be delivered to my doorstep. I will not be there to open it. (Pictured here is the cover of one of the two British editions - not available in the U.S.)
I'm not the 'fan' type, really; I don't have favorite bands, or go see certain movies over and over. I don't 'collect' anything. But I do have a tendency to be somewhat compulsive.
And, since I was a kid, that's included a frequent inability or general unwillingness to put down a good book (and sometimes a not-so-good book!) You know that "just one more chapter... " feeling? I remember staying up all night to finish Gone with the Wind when I was 14 or 15. I've read it three or four times since.
Sometimes it's a great story or the author's skill in maintaining thrills or tension that makes a book 'unputdownable.'
Sometimes it's just the characters and the world they live in - you just don't want to leave.
Other books are appealing because of their associations. The characters remind you of someone you love, or of some part of your life that was particularly wonderful. Or even some other book, or character, or genre.
Many children's books have a whimsical touch that is much more appealing than reality. It wasn't until I was a grownup that I discovered Danny the Champion of the World, but it reminds me of Homer Price. Also as an adult I read Ella Enchanted, Holes, and Sarah Plain and Tall. Practically perfect stories! Right up there with Swallows and Amazons, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Emily of New Moon!
When you pick it up may matter. The actual situation in which you are reading may have some significant emotional stamp. I read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven when I was avoiding an important writing deadline. (Reading someone else's book was irresistible when I was avoiding writing my own!) I read David Foster's Emergence on my first visit to Central Asia; it was such a perfect escape I actually read it twice on that trip - it's long, action-packed, well-written - and this is part of its appeal: told in first person by a character who is satisfying to identify with.
I'm not sure why I like the Harry Potter books. Or why they've been so popular, worldwide. But I do, and they are.
I may not be the best measure of these things, though. A book doesn't have to work that hard to hold me. I finish most of those I start. More of a gourmand than a gourmet. So sometimes I'll go to the library on a weekend afternoon and read /skim something on the lighter side in about two hours. Christian fiction, usually written at a seventh-grade reading level or so, can be consumed like that and may be best that way.
However, real life interferes with reading - and well it should. I won't get Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until Sunday afternoon and will have just over a week in town before I fly off to Eastern Europe for two weeks - probably unaccompanied by Harry... Do you think I'll finish it before then?
These days when I go to the rec. center I'm riding the exercise bikes for half hour or so at a go, and bringing Orson Scott Card's Sarah which is about the biblical character of the same name. I love Card's science fiction; Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are definitely unputdownable! He is a Mormon, though, and this book is published by an imprint of Deseret books. I wonder how much that affects its content? I know Genesis pretty well but I don't know how Mormons view or teach the patriarchs... I know what parts come out of the Bible but am not so sure what parts are from Card's imagination and what ones from Joseph Smith's. Anybody know? I may poke around and see what I can find about that.