Reading With Hope

by limebirdvanessa

Books

What do you hope for when you turn to read the first page of a new book?

Your first thought in response to that question might be that it depends on the book. You may hope that the book will interest you, entertain you, inform you, make you laugh, make you cry, shock you, scare you, excite you, surprise you, keep you in suspense. You may hope that it will offer you an escape from your real life for a while, or that you will learn new things about storytelling and the art of writing. Maybe you hope that the characters will be real enough for you to care passionately about them, or that the story will be so gripping that you will be up reading till the small hours, unable to put it down. Perhaps you simply hope that you will be able to understand it and keep up with the plot. If it’s a best seller, you will probably hope that it lives up to the hype. Maybe you hope that it will sweep you along on the breathtaking magical journey that was promised on the back cover. Perhaps you hope that it will give you something to think about, and talk about with friends. Perhaps you hope that it will inspire you to get back to writing your own novel.

I hope for various combinations of all of those things when I read a book, but underneath it all, the string that ties it all together, what I ultimately hope for, is that the book will change me in some way. It might give me a new perspective on something in the world, it might make me more tolerant, less judgmental. It might make me reconsider some long held opinions. It might make me more open to new things, more willing to step out of my comfort zone. It might make me more aware of things I had been ignorant of. It might help to make me a better writer. It might make me determined to stop procrastinating and start doing. It might make me more empathetic, more grateful, more accepting. When I turn to read the first page of a new book, I hope that I will have changed for the better, in some small way, by the end of it.

To look at that from the other side, when you write a book, how about asking yourself “What change do I hope to bring about in readers of this book?”. It’s quite a responsibility when you look at it like that.

What do you hope for when you turn to read the first page of a new book?

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23 Comments to “Reading With Hope”

  1. I think we have similar wants for books Vanessa, I also hope that it will change me in some way, change how I feel, how I think, immerse me in their world. I also hope that I will devour it, it will be a book that I’ll want to read at any chance I get. Any small break in the day I get, I’ll be thinking about reading it. Same goes for writing. I want the readers to feel something when they’re reading, want to read it whenever they can. It’s a hard thing to achieve! Great post!

    • Thanks Beth. It’s always so great when you read books that tick all those boxes, and so disappointing when then don’t! I love that feeling when it’s a book that you just can’t wait to get back to. How amazing it would be to write one that brought out those feelings in others.

  2. I think you covered everything I look for! ๐Ÿ™‚ It would be something to write a book that would grab a reader’s attention and not let them go until “the end.” And it would be even more rewarding to write something that made the reader keep thinking long after that point. That takes real skill and talent!

  3. Yes, I look for the same things when I’m reading. I also want to aspire to those things when I’m writing. We won’t be able to impact every single reader out there, but I think we do need to write with some sort of a message that will enlighten, inspire, influence, explain, etc. We don’t want to be preachy, of course, but we want to show a different perspective on things, shedding new light, getting people to think about things in a new, fresh way.

    When I read a book that does all of that, I buy it in hardcover. Seriously. I don’t settle for just the e-version or a cheap paperback from Amazon when I stumble upon a book that is meaningful on many levels. I buy the expensive hardcover and keep it close at hand and hope one day I can get the author to autograph it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s a tricky balance isn’t it, to kind of influence people in some way without preaching, it must be subtle but still strong. I like your hardcover book idea, I never really buy hardcovers unless it’s a coffee table book.

  4. The two things that I particularly look for out of your initial list are characters that I can care passionately about and something to make me think – as you say in your second paragraph – bring a new perspective to something in the world. That’s what I like to read and that’s what I like to write. No author will ever succeed in pleasing everybody because of the infinite variety of human nature, but we must keep trying.

  5. Interesting question. First, I look for an unusual perspective and use of language. I want to see the world through someone else’s lenses, not my own. And I look for interesting, not necessarily sympathetic, characters. I tend not to read genre literature but was very pleasantly surprised by Andrew Pyper’s “The Demonologist.” I guess it falls under the paranormal-suspense-thriller catagory. The narrator was erudite and witty with an unusual perspective on the world. Pyper’s rich use of metaphor was admirable and inspired while his plot was also designed to keep readers flipping the pages. But no matter how many features take into account when looking for a book to read, I always come back to language. If the language isn’t rich and fresh, I’m not motivated to keep turning the pages. If I find myself wanting to re-read paragraphs or pages so I can roll around in the author’s perspective like a cat in catnip, I know I’m enjoying the book.

    • That’s interesting, the language is the key thing for you. I can see that – whenever I get that feeling of “Oh I wish I could write something like that!” it’s generally about the clever use of language rather than to do with the story. Speaking of which, I love the picture you painted there about rolling around in the author’s perspective like a cat in catnip!

  6. I read to escape and for my mind to be stimulated by the movie that the author creates for me inside my head. I don’t want all the details of setting as I can fill in a lot of it. I want to be interested in something out side of my “Normal”.

  7. What do you hope for when you turn to read the first page of a new book? First – and this sounds a bit horrid and pragmatic – that my money’s been well spent. But, second, that I’ll be taken on a journey. As you said, Vanessa, the goal of a journey can change depending on mood: escapism, growth, overcoming fear. I like to go on a journey with the characters. I often find I learn more about myself as I learn about them. That’s what I hope my stories will do, as well: make readers reflect a bit on their own lives in the course of seeing my characters change.

    • I can’t really relate to the money thing because I very rarely buy books, I usually seem to win them or get given them as gifts! It’s more that I want to know my time as been well spent reading it. Your description of finding that you learn more about yourself as you learn about the characters is kind of what I was saying about hoping the book will change you in some way; reflecting on yourself can change your outlook.

  8. Indeed it is — a well-written, thoughtful essay.

  9. Great post – when I read a book, I hope to be transported – I want to forget everything in reality and enjoy another world. I think it all stems from reading when I was a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen like it used to do. I find I abandon more books than ever now because they lose me mid way through.

    • Thank you. Me too actually, It’s rare that I read a book which really grips me and holds me all the way through. I used to struggle to give up reading one if I wasn’t really liking it, and would force on through it, but now I don’t – there are too many books to read on my waiting list to waste time on one that’s not doing it for me.

  10. Usually, I pick up a book to escape everyday, mundane or crazy goings-on. I like to read and see through the eyes of foreign writers to view another culture. I want to learn about something new, different. A good book will leave me thinking or analyzing, remembering, wondering, or coming up with a new idea about something.

    Usually, I read to the end whether the story is gripping or not. After all, reading is subjective. If the author has put his or her heart and soul into the book, the least I can do is hear him or her out–even if the author will have no idea of this.

    Sometimes, I am so enthused, I want to look the author up on the internet and gush about their work. So far, I haven’t done so, but maybe I should. I would hate to embarrass myself or the author.

    Great post, Vanessa. Good for a detailed discussion.

    • Thank you. I don’t read to the end anymore if I’m not gripped, I used to but then I would find that the book would drag on for months because I wouldn’t want to pick it up to read, and that was months of time I was wasting that I could be reading something I really did like! I know sometimes if you keep reading, your opinion can change, but I don’t have the patience for that any more.

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