11/22/63: Three Signs of an Exceptional Book

Even though I started reading this in the last days of 2011, I am going to go out on a limb and say it will be one of my favorite books of 2012. This is one of those rare books that will stick with me for a long time. Here are three reasons why:

1. 11/22/63 is not in my usual "comfort genre" and I still loved it. I rate most of the books that I read very highly because I know what I like, and I choose my books carefully. I am too busy and too slow of a reader to waste my time on mediocrity, and even though I preach it to others, I really hate abandoning books. Call me a picky, closed-minded hypocrite, but I think that's a right that ALL readers deserve--not just adult ones--the right to CHOOSE books that we want to read. On Writing, which was fabulous, is the only book I have ever read by Stephen King because I am not a fan of horror, science fiction, or fantasy; it's just not my thing, and Stephen King is considered the master of all three (and rightfully so). 11/22/63 is the story of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher who goes back to the year 1958 to try to stop the assassination of JFK. Time traveling, politics, science fiction--not three of my top interests. Not to mention that since this book IS written by the Master of Horror, there were a few terrifying moments when I thought if this book scares me, I can't imagine reading The Shining or It--no freakin' way! But at its core, 11/22/63 is a love story. Stephen King and love story? How does that work? Well, it works pretty amazingly. Not only did I get out of my "comfort genre" when reading this book, but I think King got out of his by writing it. Change can be good when it comes to reading and writing, but does the past like change? I don't want to give away any spoilers, so read to find out. It is FASCINATING!

2. After 853 pages, I still didn't want it to end. Confession: I shy away from big books like some of the high school kids that I have taught. It's not that I am intimidated by them or a lazy reader; it's the fact that they demand such a commitment and investment of my time. Because I am a slow-as-molasses reader, I hate taking six weeks to finish a book. That whole "so many books, so little time" adage starts blaring in my head when one book takes too much of my precious time. I hate when my "To Read" pile starts mocking me. Despite my hesitancy to read books over 500 pages, I made the commitment to read this one after hearing all of the buzz, and I finished it in 3 1/2 weeks, which is like warp speed for me. But those last 100 pages--I really savored them. I didn't want to leave those characters even though I couldn't wait to see how it all ended. THAT is the sign of a great book: when you experience that paradox of hurrying to finish yet pulling back to savor.

3. I am jealous of my husband because now he gets to read it. After I finished it last night, I handed it to my husband and said, "Now it's your turn." He started it today, and I am actually jealous. As I am typing this blog post, he is reading on the couch (with the football game on, I might add), and I find myself looking over at him and thinking, "You are so lucky. I want to be back in Derry with George." Does that make me crazy? Maybe. But every lover of books knows that feeling: When a book whisks you away from your own mundane world and holds you captive. 11/22/63 got me through the blahs that I always feel after the holidays. 11/22/63 is what reading is all about--getting lost in an amazing story. If you've decided to dive in, I envy you.

For those of you who are still unsure about taking the dive, let me try again. Not a Stephen King fan? Me neither. I admire his absurd mind and crazy-good talent, but I'm too chicken to read the scary stuff. This one is Stephen King-lite. And he tackles a love story--beautifully--I might add. Intimidated by "big" books? Me too, but you will fly through this one, and it will be worth every page. Time traveling is not your thing? It's not my cup of tea either, but it doesn't get bogged down in the time/space continuum mumbo-jumbo. You might even pray for some snow days so that you can keep reading it. I did but to no avail.

Now I will turn to my "To Read" pile, and whatever I pick next has the unfortunate luck of following 11/22/63, so really it's not fair. But I will keep reading and searching for the next book that I can shout about from the rooftops, "You've GOT to read this!"

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