Have you ever struggled to read a book?
It might have been a serious tome of a book like Don Quixote or maybe it was a simple little book like The Old Man and the Sea. But for some reason reading it was as painful as pulling teeth. Even the most seasoned reader struggles to read some books because books, like the people who write them and read them, are all different.
Whenever a book comes along that I struggle with, it frustrates me more than it should. I have a hard time starting a book and then letting it go if I can’t get into the story. Maybe it’s pride or a snobbish desire to finish what I start or my stubborn streak rearing its head. No matter how much I love books and reading, inevitably books pop up with a subject, or a style, or something that just doesn’t click.
If you read at all, you have probably experienced this book boredom at one time or another.
Before you give up hope on that copy of Absalom! Absalom! sitting on your bedside table, I want to introduce the concept of the game changer.
game changer : noun. a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way*
When it comes to reading, I have found three elements that can pull you right back into the fray of a book which— up until that moment—has been dull, tedious, and taxing.
#1. Audio Books
I am a passionate preacher of the Audio Book. Two-thirds of what I “read,” I listen to in my car. When a book is difficult for me to read, my first solution is always an Audio Book.
I used this game-changer just this month. The book was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and I just could not make myself read it. I was bored to tears. The funny thing was, I knew it was a book I should like. It had everything; magic, fairies, 19th century England. But the format made for an arduous trek through the pages. Because I had to return the book to the library within thirty days, I gave up on this story pretty quickly. Luckily, my husband suggested I give it a second try on audio book. Since I have an hour commute to work, the task of listening through twenty six CDs didn’t seem too far of a stretch. What I discovered is what my husband knew all along; Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an incredible book and I plan to buy a copy.
Audio Books are a game changer.
Yes, you read that correctly. Movies can make a story come alive in a way that words on a page cannot. I am not a particularly visual person, and sometimes a story demands a visual performance for the plot or dialogue to make sense. Movies can never replace the original book or story, but they can open up a story and make it accessible and captivating.
I used this game-changer during my first trek through many of Shakespeare’s plays. I needed to see and hear what was happening on the page in order to understand the brilliance that is Shakespeare. But this worked for other books that aren’t plays. Some that come immediately to mind for me are Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, North and South, and Pride and Prejudice. For each of these winding books, I relied on excellent movie adaptions as road maps to find my way through to the heart of the story, and once I got there, I was hooked. Since then, I have re-read the books themselves and enjoyed them with the fantastic visual performance already in mind.
Movies are a game changer.
Illustrations are the distant older cousin to movies, but the concept of visual cues is the same. Some readers need to see to understand. If you are like me, conjuring up a picture of a complex description is difficult and not always possible.
I remember pictures heavily influencing my enjoyment of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dante’s Inferno. Without the pictures, much of the descriptions in these books would have been lost on me. But once I could see the world that the authors were describing, the story grew up around me in those illustrations. Ever since discovering the power of pictures to communicate story, I have been a huge fan of comic books and graphic novels. If you have never experienced a story this way, I urge you to try it.
Illustrations are a game changer.
With any task that demands mental or physical energy, road blocks are sure to arise. Reading is no exception, no matter how enjoyable it is. Sometimes all we need is a shift of perspective for a story to sink it’s hooks in us. If reading the words on the page has fallen flat, before you call it quits, try something new. You might just find the key that unlocks an incredible story that you would have otherwise missed.
ps. have you ever found that trying a different format makes a boring story interesting? What works (or doesn’t work) for you? Comment below!