Beth Hautala

Children's Author


Afraid Of A Good Read

Sometimes I'm afraid to read. This is a staggering realization, considering the line of work I'm in.

I don't mean I'm afraid of the process, or the story, really.
Rather, I'm afraid of its effect on my heart.
And yet, this is why I pull books from shelves, inviting them into my life in the first place.
Books change you. At least, the truly good ones do.

Good books twist and tear at parts of me I've forgotten about entirely. They leave my convictions and suppositions, my established sets of ideas and clarified ways of thinking in shambles. I fall in and out of love with characters. I'm left exhausted by plot turns and twists. Beginnings capture my imagination and endings break my heart. —Not because they are sad (though sometimes they are), but because the whole wonderful messy, glorious, satisfying thing is over.

Books are like little lives in and of themselves—we alternately breathe afresh and then expire between preface and epilogue. And this both thrills and frightens me. Story is a powerful thing.

I recently told a friend, "I never stop reading a book because it bothers me or because I disagree with what the characters are doing. I always finish the book, though I've thrown books away for those reasons. The only reason I ever stop reading, is because the book fails to capture my heart."

Good books are the most safe and the most dangerous place you can enter. You can close the last page and resume life, but if the author did his/her job, then you can not walk away unchanged. And change can be a frightening thing. 

I've read two dozen books this past year. Not nearly as many as I'd like, but considering the small amount of time I have to my name, it's a reasonable number. And while only a couple of those books grabbed me and have yet to let go, all of them left fingerprints on my heart. And I love that.

Tell me, what have you read this year, and has it left you changed? What elements of a story capture your heart?