Suspense versus Substance: Can Books Have Both?
I take a lot of pride in the number of books I read in a year, and every year I challenge myself to read just a few more than I did last year. After all, there are just too many books that I know I want to read, and already too many that I know I'll never get to. Yesterday, a conversation about books and reading that I had with a neighbour gave me pause. He said everybody always talks about enjoying books they speed through because they can't put it down, but he doesn't like those types of books. In his kind, those books that you can't put down don't have enough substance, and he prefers something that forces him to take his time, and gives him something to think about. I read extremely quickly for the most part, and the more engaged I am in the story, the faster I want to get to the end to see what happens. (I don't do we'll with cliffhangers). I love reading books I can't put down. One of my highest measures of a good book is how anxious I am to get back to it when I finally do have to put it down, and I was so consumed by the story that I did miss a bus stop, stay up too late, or arrive late for an engagement because I couldn't stop. I stayed up half the night reading Rick Yancy's The Fifth Wave because I literally couldn't put it down. My eyes were drooping and I was beyond exhausted, but I kept telling myself just one more chapter. Was it an enjoyable and thrilling read? Absolutely! But was it the kind of book that made me want to slow down and think carefully about it? Not exactly. On the other hand, I have also read books that were so wonderful- so meaningful that I did slow down and ponder them more carefully. While they were great books in their own right and I certainly wanted to finish them, they weren't the "can't put it down" type of books. Recently, I read the final book in Jonathan Maberry's Benny Imura Chronicles, and it not only kept me up all night reading, it (and the entire series) gave me a lot to think about challenging this theory that a boom you can't put down doesn't give you anything to think about. As much as I couldn't put it down, I found myself reading more slowly and paying closer attention to a lot of the details I normally would have glossed over. Maberry successfully created a series with a great deal of suspense and substance which made me wonder- does suspense automatically lack the substance to which my neighbour referred, or is it possible for a book that you can't put down to also make you think? What do you all think? Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for Edu Reference Publisher's Direct in Toronto Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.