I’m usually not one to jump on a bandwagon of any kind. Actually, I tend to run the other way, especially when it comes to the big book bandwagon. You know the ones: NYT Bestsellers, being read by every single book club all over the country, flying off bookstore shelves, and Oprah’s book club picks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oprah and I am always extremely happy when an author makes it to the big time. But, somehow, a book loses its magic for me when more people are reading it than not. I lose interest and I can’t quite explain it. I felt this way about Wild; Eat, Pray, Love; and The Book Thief. To be fair, I’m mostly a reader of non-fiction books (I know, I know, two of these are. I’m starting to warm up to contemporary memoir). Also to be fair, after I read (much later than everyone else) the three books I just mentioned—I loved and enjoyed them all. I recently found myself in another reading dilemma with All the Light We Cannot See. I kept hearing all of the gushing compliments: “It’s the best book I’ve ever read.” “I’ve bought copies for everyone in my family.” “It’s beautifully written.” “I could not put it down.” “The characters are so believable.” And “It will stay with me forever.” Working in a bookstore, I heard the same statements of praise every day. What should I do? I held off for a long while, but eventually I hopped right on the bandwagon. What finally convinced me to come aboard? A customer that comes in several times a week. She’s a prolific reader and remembers everything she has ever read. She must be in her late 70’s, early 80’s. I asked her what it was about this book that made it special enough to be her self-proclaimed “all-time favorite.” She answered in her lilting Southern drawl, “Oh, sugar.” She smiled and then after a long deliberate pause said, “Words. It’s in the words. The way Doerr describes a room, or a face, or a sound. It’s all very descriptive and you have to close your eyes after some sentences just to drink in the images. Indeed, it’s the words.” Words. Oh, sugar. She had me at words.
Author photo: February 17, 2016 Book and coffee