At my core, I’m a writer. One of the things I love best about reading — and having a book blog — is the ability to read and immediately write about a novel. Whether it’s chatting on how terrible it was, how stunning, or just hashing and re-hashing my favorite moments, I love sharing my thoughts — and review books almost immediately after finishing them, typically early the following morning.
I’m realizing something strange, though. As I continue to chronicle my reading adventures and review each book I finish, weeks can go by — months, maybe — before I think about a book again. Then, when I’m scanning my book reviews archive or reading challenges, a title will jump out at me and I’ll think, “Oh yeah. I remember that one. It was . . . good?”
And I won’t quite know. I won’t remember.
I read the book. In many cases, I loved the book. But the details? Well, the details will have faded into obscurity — characters, places, times. Nothing much remains. And when I go back to see what I wrote, I’ll barely contain my surprise at having raved about something I can barely recall later on. Lu at Regular Rumination recently posted on Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a book I finished last August. As I was reading Lu’s review, all the things I disliked about it — the things that frightened me — came rushing back, swamping any positive feelings I could conjure up. But after I pulled up my own review, I was shocked by how much I liked it.
So the little wheels in my brain are turning. How different would my review of the young adult novel — which centers around an American teen trapped in England after the onset of a mysterious world war — have changed if I’d discussed it weeks later, instead of the following morning? And that particular morning, as I recall, I was dead exhausted from having stayed up until 2 a.m. or so to finish. It was horrifying; I couldn’t tear myself away. And then, of course, I couldn’t calm down long enough to sleep.
If I were to talk about the book now, my review would be very different — and probably not as positive. And I have a feeling that’s true of many of the novels I’ve read.
So which reaction is the “true” reaction? Is it better to review a book when it’s fresh and freshly in my mind, when I’m probably emotional from having finished it? When I love a book so much and then write a review immediately, I have a tendency to gush. Are those reviews “better” than the ones I might have written had I let the book simmer, giving me time to analyze my feelings and discuss it in a more logical way?
As I’m sure it apparent, I adore writing about books. And if I had to wait to write about them, I feel like they would lose something powerful in the meantime. Those gut reactions to a book are, to me, some of the most interesting . . . and honest. But I know that not everyone feels that way.