on resonance

It’s strange the things that click for us and don’t.

I like reading reviews of books I’ve read–after I’ve read them–to see what other people thought. Say, for example, it’s a book that I loved (since there are so many of those), even if I see a negative review that mentions legitimate concerns, I can empathize. Yeah, I can see why this person felt this way about the antagonist. What’s over-the-top for one reader is what justified the ending for me. Okay, yeah, maybe the plotting was a little weak but that didn’t bother me since the characters were so funny and the world so detailed.

And sometimes my deal-breakers for why I don’t enjoy a story are things other readers ignore.

I just finished reading a book that was in all technical senses–perfect. It was “my” kind of story, a well-known and often-praised author, neat premise, unique setting, strong characters, good writing, escalating tension, solid stakes, etc etc. Everything was right where it should have been (in my very humble opinion).

And yet, I kinda never cared. I realized what was happening as I read it, noting story landmarks, acknowledging all the things that the author was doing right. But I never forgot for a moment that I was reading. I never needed to race to the ending. I put it down several times after the 85% mark voluntarily.

I gave the book good marks. It is “a good book,” a quality story well-told by a master writer. There is nothing wrong with it.

In fact, I feel more like I failed this book than the book failed me. What did I do wrong that I never fell in love? How is it even possible to fail at reading?

There’s absolutely no explanation. I should be raving and recommending this book instead of keeping this little tirade anonymous. I’d hate to dissuade anyone from reading the book, you see, since it could very well resonate for you. I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for it and that makes me sad.

I really expected to like the book, which makes my apathy unsettling. But it happens, we can’t always predict magic. We can’t always predict resonance. I like most of what I read, which can be interpreted in two ways. I either like everything (which isn’t true) or I’m pretty good at picking books. But how do we choose books we love to read? How can we know till we’re way past the sample, knee-deep in the conflict or maybe even a breath from the end?

How–and when–do you find resonance in the things you love? How do you identify it?

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