Some thoughts on book “stickiness”…

I don’t like to write down my thoughts about a book or draft a review immediately after I’ve finished the book. Instead, I like to let the book sit with me for a few days, or even a few weeks. That’s because one of the most important qualities for me in deciding how much I liked the book is “stickiness.”

“Stickiness” is a fairly ineffable quality that I am sure differs from one reader to another. It has to do with how much I thought about the book after I closed it for the last time. How often I replayed certain scenes in my mind. How frequently I found myself talking about the book with others. How much my understanding of the book’s characters or themes deepened after I had finished reading it.

It often surprises me which books are “sticky” for me. Kazuo Ishiguro‘s When We Were Orphans is one recent example — I can’t stop thinking about one haunting scene that occurs near the end. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is another; my husband and I discuss it often, and I even find myself quoting it, much to my surprise.

A “sticky” book will almost certainly receive a four- or five-star review from me and find its way into my collection. I read a lot of books that I find to be just average, which really means that they are not sticky. I might enjoy them during the actual reading of them, but once I close them, I find it difficult to recall exactly what happened or who the characters were. While such a book may have earned a better review immediately after I finished reading it, once I let it sit for a while, I think I am better able to judge whether it had any lasting impact on me. If it’s not sticky, it generally only earns three stars and a place in my BookMooch pile.

Do you find that certain books you read tend to stick with you? Does your opinion of them change over time?

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