Lately I’ve been reading a lot, making lists of books I want to read, and frequenting the library so often that I feel like I’m going daily. Occasionally I’ll read novels recommended to me by friends or I’ll spy a casual acquaintance on Instagram sharing a story they’ve loved, but for the most part, I decide what I read. And in that strange place between curiosity and happenstance, I’ve been finding that I always come across the right book – a text that is appropriately in line with either my state of mind, my aspirations, or helps me work through a problem I’ve been struggling with. And it’s almost entirely by accident.
For example, right now I’m reading The Courage to be Disliked – a philosophical book on how to change your life. But this is a gross simplification. It’s not only about how to change your life, but also how to view your life through a healthy lens of not living in the past, finding freedom from your traumas, and looking differently at success and relationships. I’m only a third of the way through, but I can already tell that it is just the medicine I’ve been needing to push beyond my limits and to find the courage to pursue a happier future.
So how did this book find me? Well, I started reading an article about a trend in “anti self-help” books. It was a grabby, clickbait headline and I mostly read it to pass the time – I didn’t think I’d pick up a recommendation along the way. There were a few suggestions and references in the article, but The Courage to be Disliked stood out as something peculiar, described as a KonMari for your mind. Other than that I didn’t know much and popped it on my library reading list.
When I took it out of the library, I had absolutely no attachment, but now that I’m reading it, I can tell that it perfectly fits into my current life. It’s a bit lofty and philosophical, but it’s also the right message for me. It is the right book at the right time.
In many ways I’m an impatient reader and I can be a little undisciplined when it comes to reading things I don’t like. So chances are, if I can follow along well enough, I can read that particular book. But I don’t pretend to like things if I don’t, nor do I push through literature that’s too dense or hard to follow. All this to say that I’m a difficult customer. There’s a greater chance when starting a new book that I simply wont like it.
Which is what happened to the last novel I finished. I had been sitting on Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth after carrying it around Japan a few months ago. In twenty days I only read 20 pages. I can’t fake a read, and perhaps I wasn’t ready to consume that content. After months of renewing and an unwillingness to return the book, I gave it another go. This time was different. I was ready for the message, the betrayals, the stunning prose and the feelings that you’ve missed a boat that everyone else is on. I closed the cover three days later, unable to put it down. After I finished, I felt like the story had sunk into my soul, like I had a lot of similar demons and demands lingering in my heart. Perhaps I wasn’t getting the message when I made my first attempt, but the book came back again at the right time.
I try to be open. I want to discover more about myself, the world, creativity and life’s journey. So maybe it isn’t only good luck that helps me find the right book, but rather an open mind that keeps teaching me, and keeps helping me find messages that motivate and inspire.
It still feels like serendipity though. What do you think?
Do you feel like you find yourself reading the right book at the right time? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! And if you’re wondering what else I’m reading, check out The Courage to be Disliked, Circe, and The Care and Feeding of Pirates (yes, that last one is a real book!).