STORIED NIGHTS AND STARRY EYES
What is it about reading a great book that feels so indulgent? Forget the dry resolve of working through a book that you have to read: I’m talking about the books that you feel lucky to have read.
These are the books that transform our experiences—and vice versa. I won’t pretend that I don’t save the titles I’m most excited about for particular reading situations. I held off on a much-anticipated third-in-a-series novel recently because I had a trip to Iceland coming up, and I knew that the book would be all the richer if it were read under far-north skies. And it was. In a land where the sun never sets, staying up until three with a story you adore is like being wrapped in wonder: the world goes quiet around you as you plunge forward toward the end, never losing the light behind you. It will go down in my annals as a cherished instance of delayed gratification. I wonder if I won’t be able to shake the impression, on my next visit to that title, that preserved Nordic night air is spilling out from the pages.
A book that I had to read might have been more bearable in that setting, too, but it’s the perfectly matched titles that transform reading moments into memories. Spend a night curled in your favorite reading chair with a book worth exalting and your exhaustion the next day is worth it; that same night, spent stiff-upperlipped over a book that you mostly feel that you have to finish, is simply work. I’ve taken books I love out on the town to read over dinner and drinks and have pressed those experiences into my mental scrapbook; I’ve also read books at bars that are mostly bearable because of the pint placed next to them.
When we’re selecting titles for the magazine, it’s the experience-giving books that we’re most interested in, and we delight in matching them with reviewers who’ll revel in what they have to offer. We know that our reviewers will read thoughtfully regardless, but when we get the word back on a book and it’s couched in love terms—when we know someone’s made a book memory there, and not just formed an opinion—it’s the best reward we can get. It’s always worthwhile to have read a book; it’s vivifying to have loved doing it.
Indulge us this flaunting: there are over 170 opportunities here for that kind of experience—the perfect night, the vacation made, the time spent that you can’t stop talking about. Our political and social science feature and our translations feature are packed with horizon-expanding opportunities; the featured science titles may literally alter the way you understand the universe. The novels we’ve covered bounce around the world, alternately engaging in serious moments and winking ones; the art books we’ve covered play with colors, shapes, and familiar notions in dizzying ways.
The challenge is to you now: Find the story that’s just waiting to become a part of your story. Dive in. Enjoy.