What Good Books Do

I’m a book sampling slut. Between novel recommendations on Twitter, discounted books on BookBub, and the discovery of new authors, I’m faced on a daily basis with dozens of books I should read, read, read!

Having limited time on my hands, there are only so many books I’m willing and able to read to completion. So what’s a book nerd to do? Sample. I look inside, I peek at excerpts, I download samples to my iPad with a frequency that’s enthusiastic, unwise, and possibly pathological.

And like a saavy speed-dater, I’ve gotten my book sampling down to an imperfect art: I often know by a few paragraphs, if not a few sentences, whether a book is for me. I almost never read a full excerpt anymore; before I hit page three I often know whether something’s going to end up on my TBR list or not.

This is unfair, and I’m likely missing some very good books this way. But with my voracious habits, I’m not sure how else to survive this reading life.

I recently realized the books I continue reading do something different in my head: they open up a tiny space that wasn’t there before. When I read something that really grabs me, it’s like a room is suddenly carved out in my brain with the door slightly ajar. Even when I walk away from that excerpt, the room is still there in my head, filled with the whispers of unanswered questions: What’s in that room? What worlds and objects can be seen? Who are the people who live there? And, above all: what happens?

Those whispered murmurs can continue for weeks, even months. I know; for the past few days I haven’t been able to get the opening of Graham Joyce’s Dark Sister out of my head—so much I tracked it down in my library system this morning, even though I really should be reading a classic for my book club, or that other library book, or one of the dozen ebooks on my iPad.

But Dark Sister? It whispers to me.

This is what good books do. They change you. They put something in your head that wasn’t there before. And even when you read the book, when almost all the questions are answered, that space is still there. The door may be closed, but the room remains—there’s always a little light underneath, waiting for you to open it again.


  1. I have to say that I don’t blame you. I too download a sample of an ebook because I started to find that most of the books I bought were either a first draft or turned out to be not my particular flavor. Yes, I do have my own NYTBS favorites, but I do like to widen out and read other authors. Unfortunately, some have not gotten the memo and have put their work out without the aid of an editor. Thus, the sample. I enjoyed your post! 🙂

    1. GGAndrew says:

      Yes, I bought a few books in the past without sampling and learned my lesson! Very pro-sample here 🙂

      1. GGAndrew says:

        p.s. Thanks for commenting! Your website is gorgeous, by the way. Love the pics and colors.

  2. That is SO true! I’m sample whore, too. LOL Just picked up three samples from a new-to-me author that sounded very fun. I didn’t buy, because I have to read something before I “get” to buy. LOL About once a month, I go do a sample browse and if I still like it, then I keep it (or if I’ve been “good” I get to buy it). 🙂

    1. GGAndrew says:

      This is a great idea I need to steal! I have a tendency to sample so much (and download free/cheap ebooks) that I’ve got dozens of books on my iPad that are going unread. What a great idea to have yourself read before buying.

  3. Lynn Kelley says:

    I love your category, Book Nerdery! I feel the same way about a book I’ve read and can’t stop thinking about the characters and the story and if it’s super good I’ll go back and read it again because I miss it so much.

    This is such an awesome quote at the end of your post: “The door may be closed, but the room remains—there’s always a little light underneath, waiting for you to open it again.” Really cool. This should be a famous quote. Maybe it will be!

    1. GGAndrew says:

      Thanks for commenting! I often engage in book nerdery 🙂 I don’t re-read books very often, but I’m thinking I need to do a book re-reading challenge next year of beloved books from my childhood and teen years that I miss (stuff like Judy Blume, Christopher Pike, Dean Koontz, and maybe even *blush* Sweet Valley High).

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