Now and then, a book isn't for me. That's kinder to say, I think, than This book is bad. As an author myself, I've heard Your book is bad plenty of times, and no matter the reason behind it, it never feels nice.
The book I finished reading recently wasn't for me. That it wasn't was difficult to swallow, since its subject matter is still mostly uncommon, and when someone writes about this subject, I leap on their book. Sadly, I didn't enjoy the read.
It's a curious thing, to be an author and to be disappointed by someone else's book. I feel both sides of that equation. As a reader, I'm bummed out. As an author, it can sting when a reader takes shots at your work. And it feels cheap to be an author and take shots at another author. Books are incredibly difficult to write. To finish one is an accomplishment worth being proud of.
Still. Not for me.
When this happens, I like to go in a completely different direction with my next read. So I put the previous book—a thriller—into my Donate these books pile, and picked up a nonfiction book instead.
This one's been on my shelf for a few years, and I hadn't gotten around to it until now. It's called Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, and it's about a young woman, drawn to the north, who tests her limits and eventually becomes a sled dog racer. Well, that's what it seems to be about; I'm only a few chapters in.
The writing. Goodness. The writing. Braverman writes as visually as Annie Proulx:
Across the fjord, sharp white mountains softened near the shore, sloughing into low mounds like melted wax. Like most communities in northern Norway, the twenty or so homes that made up the village of Mortenhals were spread on the thin strip of land between mountains and fjord, along a beach dotted with fat wooden rowboats and wooden racks for drying cod. The fish would be served with bacon grease, a delicacy, while their heads were ground into protein flour and sent to Africa. From one rack hung two dead crows, tied by their feet with string, whose wings reached toward the sand.
The writing is so good, and so honest, I can't even find it in me to be jealous of Braverman's skill. Every book teaches me something about my own writing. (Even the ones that aren't for me.)
Ice Cube, I think, is a book for me. It's okay that my previous read wasn't; it will be the right book for someone else. That's how books work. They find the right readers.