Books Don’t Make Me Cry (or Feel Anything) Anymore

Why isn’t reading the felt experience it once was?

Keri Mangis

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Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Is it just me, or are books just not as potent, not as meaningful, not as imbued with soul, as they once were?

Recently, looking back over my year’s reads on my Goodreads app to count the books that I’ll remember for a lifetime. The ones that, whether or not I’ll read them again, took me to a place beyond and behind this world—a world of imagination, of possibility, of genuine connection. I enjoyed many, but as far as the ones that take that special, sacred place in my heart and mind? I’m going to say about six out of 33. This is disappointing. Isn’t it the point of a book, any book, to make readers feel something? To bring to life an unforgettable world? Should we really be able to read it and then forget even the most basic plot points just a few months later?

I’ve been a dedicated reader ever since I can remember. I can still remember what it felt like when those fresh-off-the-press Scholastic book order forms got passed around in our elementary school classroom. I could barely listen to the teacher the rest of the afternoon, as I was so anxious to get home and spend my evening pondering my choices.

My 3rd-grade self, belly down on the bed, critique pen ready between my teeth, I’d look at the covers, study the titles, read the descriptions. All of these things went into the final decision. But there was something else, something that I can remember even now, that helped me choose my books. I wasn’t just looking at the books, I was feeling them. Some invisible part of me reached out, seeking to make a connection with the text, with the picture. Not this, not that, Yes, this one.

That’s how it happened. I didn’t think about what reviewers said, or whether my classmates were reading the same books. It was so much simpler, and yet, also, so much harder to explain. It’s not logic, it’s not reason. It’s desire.

“I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me.”
Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

I still use this same method of feeling, but, I’m conscious of it today. I walk around a bookstore or library, slowly, and I feel. And I listen. And I wait.

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Keri Mangis

Keri Mangis is an award-winning author, teacher, and speaker.