books to read

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Musing on Books by Michelle West

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, DAW, 2007, $24.99.

Thirteen, by Richard Morgan, Del Rey, 2007, $24.99.

I’M SURE you’re all familiar with reader fatigue. It’s the malaise that causes you to glance at a book, sigh, and put it down, having skimmed perhaps the back cover blurb or the inside flap, without any interest at all in the words that have managed to penetrate the fog. It feels a little like boredom, but is more accurately the inability to engage with the printed page. In general, we blame this on the book, or what we assume the book is about—which is to say, the same-old, same-old.

Any type of book, any genre, can engender this feeling, and when caught in its grip, the reader approaches everything with a somewhat jaded eye. At its worst, it can cause you to forget why exactly it is you want to read in the first place.

Let me make this clear: I used to place blame on the books, but I’ve come to realize it’s probably me. I’m feeling somewhat jaded, and I want something, but my ability to engage with text at this point is rather minimal. When I’m in this mood, I’ve given up on looking for emotional delight. Or emotional anything, really. If the words fail to somehow grab me, I move on, restlessly grazing. (No, I’m not going to carry that particular analogy any further.)

But if a book I approach with a certain sense of gloom does somehow manage to catch the attention that is already flagging before I’ve turned to page one, it feels like a revelation. And if it continues to hold me, or surprise me, if it gets under my rather thick skin in some way, it reminds me of why I read in the first place.

So: this month’s column, and the two very different books herein.

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