Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Books: The Story of When You Are

I've been doing a lot of reading lately.

To be honest, I've been doing much more reading than writing. I know I should be writing, I know that becoming a "successful" writer means you must go beyond your first book. I still have many stories to tell, but at  the moment those stories are a jumbled mess of ideas that refuse to find their way to the page.

So I read.

In addition to reading, though, I am making a greater effort to review anything and everything I read (or at the very least give the book a star rating). Why? Because

Reviews Matter!!!!

{There's your (not so subtle) reminder to help your favorite authors by reviewing their books. That goes for P.O.W.ER as well. Here's the link to P.O.W.ER on Amazon so you can write one right now if  you would like. Go ahead, I'll wait. And while you are at it you could also review it on GoodReads or anywhere else you can think of . . . }

. . .

Are you back? Thanks. <3

Anyway, sometimes when I go to review a book, I am not sure what I want to say. Writing reviews isn't easy, especially if (as is beginning to happen for me) you have a budding connection (friendship?) with the author. Sometimes I wonder if it is right for me to review books, when I am trying to break into the field myself. Sometimes I just don't have the words to explain what I'm thinking. Yes . . . that sounds like a bad thing for someone who writes, but there are times when you can love the story but hate the writing, or love the writing and hate the story, or recognize the power of the story and dislike the characters so much that you didn't care, or any other kind of combination.

Today I went on to GoodReads to rate my most recent read, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. So I began to read other people's reviews, looking for inspiration. That's when it hit me . . . the reality of what it means to read a book. Books do not just tell the story the author has written, books also tell the story of the reader.

What do I mean by that? I mean that my response to any book depends on when I read it. Not the when of the time of day (because I read at all times, and if I love what I am reading I can read all day non-stop). I mean the when of my life. I've written before of the history of my life in books; but today I realized this goes even deeper than that. My response to any book is related to my own experiences in life--and if I read certain books at different times my response will be different. There are many books that I return to again and again; but even those that I loved in the past may not resonate with me in the present because my own story has changed and grown.

[caption id="attachment_9100" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Books in my house My house is filled with book friends.[/caption]

For example, I absolutely loved Jane Eyre when I was in high school. I remember marking the book in light pencil to underline words that I relished or passages that I wanted to remember. Somewhere in my parent's house, an old hard copy of the that book still exists, with the markings of my young hand. I loved the romance and the mystery. I envisioned myself as the young Jane, treated cruelly by a world that couldn't recognize her value until she finally found herself in the arms of true love.

As an adult, I still appreciate Jane Eyre, but I don't have the same response to the romance, the mystery, the atmosphere. Back then I would have fallen into the arms of Mr. Rochester, just as Jane had done. Now, I probably would have walked away and never looked back.

The point is, how you respond to any book depends on the story of your own life.

I have a pile of books on my "to read" list written by friends (or at least virtual friends) that I have been putting off reading. I feel bad for that, because I know that all of these people are fun and fabulous writer's, but the books themselves have little appeal to me at this current moment in my life. I will read them, and I will review them, but I will need to do it with my "academic" thinking cap on--because at the moment those books do not speak to my story. I have to respond from a different space.

But can anyone really do that? We read and respond to books based on who we are at the given moment that we read the book. That is why there is such a diversity of reviews. That is why one person may hate a book that others love. Of course, you also have the negative reviews written out of spite or jealousy--but I think that is rare. I think that, people who love reading, respond as best they can to anything they read. However, that response is as much of a reflection on their own lives as the book themselves.

So what does this mean to me as a writer? It actually means a lot. In a way it gives me more freedom. If you accept the idea that you cannot please all readers all the time, and that a reader's response can often be dictated by their own story, then it allows you to tell the story you need to tell in the best way you can. After all, reviews matter when you want more people to read, but ultimately they are just one person's opinion, in that moment in time.

What is your relationship to books? Does it change?

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