How Magic Works*

We are still on some poor publicist's list of "hey, blogs might help marketing books!" list from 2008, and so we get a steady drip drip drip of books that…I would not have predicted we would get. A lot of them seem to be from a Christian imprint within HarperCollins, though that only shows up on the box? More copies than I can quite believe of Stick Dog, Stick Cat, Stick Whatever. The occasional adorable picture book. And, quite recently, this:


And, on the same day, this:


As happens nowadays, Chestnut read them both pretty much before I had my coat off. And then, she wanted me to read them. "Read them both," she said. "Together. They're kind of about the same thing, they're both about anxiety."

Well, we here at The Diamond in the Window know a thing or two about anxiety. So I promised.

But first I had to finish rereading a few other books, coincidentally also about anxiety (IT and The Handmaid's Tale), and then there was some stuff to take care of, and then I was busy—.

"READ THEM," Chestnut said. So I did.

And here's the weird thing. They are both about anxiety, at least a bit. They are both about a friendship between two girls. They are both about important summers. But even with all that, they are very different books—Bad Ideas is funny and romantic and silly, while Swing Sideways is more sad and dramatic. (Warning to those it may be an issue before: Swing Sideways also contains cancer and death.)

But the strangest thing about reading two different books so close together is that you get an up close and personal view of the weird magic that is reading. Because for me, the heroine of The Summer of Bad Ideas came to life—easily, clearly, no matter what was going on in the book. When she saw the cute boy, he seemed cute. When she got confused and overwhelmed, I felt it. I was there with her in that instantaneous and (sorry) magical way that books can make happen. And when I was reading You Make My Heart Swing Sideways—it didn't work that way.

Why is that? Is it the writing? The story? Is it even true for all readers? Probably not. But it was inescapable, and it made me think about it all over again—something I already think about quite a bit. Why does some fiction, why do some characters, spring to living breathing reality, making the words disappear and a new world open up and let you in? How exactly does that work?

I am not sure. But I would tell you, if you're looking for something for someone who is looking for a book to read, something fun and silly but also sweet and nerdy, you might consider getting that person The Summer of Bad Ideas—especially if that person happened to be a bit nervous about snakes, for instance (like myself). And in a small and interesting side note, there is a brief brush on special needs kids, and selective mutism, which is kind of great, I think.

And bear in mind that the greatest book on anxiety ever is, and always will be, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Just so you know.


*I don't actually know how magic works.

4 thoughts on “How Magic Works*

  1. Yes! Some books make me feel as if I had slipped into another world as easily as being submerged in a pool of water. Other books it is a struggle to enter their world. I can never figure out exactly what makes the difference. I think it is probably some writing has flow, and other writing just doesn’t.
    In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. (Wikipedia)
    I don’t know why some writers can do this for me and others can’t.


  2. For me I know it is sometimes a function of time whether or not I can enter into a book. It has gotten harder as I age. Not sure why on that.


  3. I agree! Some books sweep you off of your feet, others need me to bring the broom. Definitely not the same experience. Time is a consideration–for sure. But I also think background knowledge has to factor in somehow, either linguistically, or culturally, or something. You have to be ready to be swept away–you have to allow it. I have trouble with the classics. My mom loves Jane Eyre. I don’t. I started the book MANY times, and never got far. I think that I haven’t let myself get over the hump. Same with Jane Austin. And many others. It could be time, or patience, or being stubborn. I did the same thing with The Book Thief, but someone told me to read the first 100 pages (after starting it four separate times) and then? I was reading when brushing my teeth. It is one of my very favorite books of all time. It is weird how this magic works.


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