Have you ever started reading a book you’re really excited about, only to find after a few pages that it’s just not really… clicking with you?
I think that the time in your life when you read a book can definitely impact your opinion of the work. For example, I primarily read Young Adult books all throughout high school. I loved the feeling of being able to directly relate to what the characters were experiencing. From awkward first relationships and hallway drama to prom nights and eventually graduation, I felt as though I understood where they were coming from. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that my love for these stories would wane a bit if I reread them today. With age comes perspective, something that can change the way you view your world. Issues that seemed grandiose and life-altering back in high school– the latest gossip, who was dating who, etc.– now seem quite petty in retrospect.
Similarly, there are many books I’ve read recently that I love that I don’t believe I would have enjoyed had I read them when I was younger. One example that I talk about all the time on this blog is My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Published in 1918, this classic tells the story of Jim Burden’s experience with immigrant life on the rural plains of Nebraska. My Ántonia is definitely not something I would have picked up and read on my own before college, but after discussing it in class and learning more about Cather it is now one of my favorite books. I’ve noticed that over the years I’ve gained a greater appreciation for novels and stories that are driven by characters rather than plot. When I was younger, fast-paced and exciting plots were the most important aspects of books for me, whereas now I would much prefer to read about a well-developed character.
Apart from ways in which greater perspective can influence your opinions at different times, I think it’s safe to say that personal experiences can also have a significant impact on your perception of a book. For example, a few months ago I finally got around to reading Stacy London’s The Truth About Style. I read this at the perfect time because I could really relate to some of the issues she discusses. Another example I always think about is when I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern a few years ago around Christmastime. This ethereal, mysterious, almost fantastical story fit the mood of the holiday season flawlessly. It was just enough magic and mystery for those cold winter nights!
In my experience, I’ve definitely noticed that timing is an important factor in forming my opinion of a book. What do you think? Do you think there’s a RIGHT time to read a book? Have you had any specific experiences like this? Are there any books that you wish you had read at a different time in your life? Let me know in the comments section below!