I mentioned last week that I was reading Ready Player One, but I didn’t tell you why.
A month ago I hadn’t even heard of the book, a 2011 sci fi novel by Ernest Cline. I first encountered it when I was updating the Kindle deals page. (Job perk: I actually encounter a lot of new-to-me books that way.) The description sounded interesting, but I didn’t feel compelled to read it.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Ready Player One kept coming up. My local writing partner said she was reading it, and recommended it. She raved about the audiobook, so I downloaded it from Audible but didn’t do anything with it. Before I could begin, my brother-in-law—whose tastes differ wildly from mine—told us all about it at family dinner, and he never talks about books at family dinner. And then Will came home from work with the paperback.
I believe that books find their way to you when you need them, and this book was clearly determined to find me.
In Garden Spells, there’s a character who feels compelled to give odd little gifts to her friends and neighbors: strawberry pop tarts, two quarters, a silk shirt that’s three sizes too big. There’s a bit of magic about these gifts: the giver never knows what they’re for when she gives them. But they always turn out to be extremely important to the recipient, who soon finds that she needs those strawberry pop tarts for an unexpected guest, or two quarters to make an emergency phone call, or whose life will change when she goes to return that shirt. The gifts seem odd—even random—when they’re given, but they’re soon revealed to be vital.
I feel that way about reading. Sometimes I seek out a book because I need it, like my current reads on parenting and writing. But more often I feel compelled to read a book for reasons I can’t discern, and only later find that it’s essential to me, right then—not before I started reading it, but after.
I pay attention to cosmic hints, including hints about books. A decade ago, I felt like everyone I knew was telling me to read The Divine Conspiracy. I was halfway through the book—which was really shaking me up—when my son was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. That book—and the insights I’d already gleaned—accompanied me to unfamiliar doctor’s offices, airplane terminals, hospital waiting rooms, and the Ronald McDonald House. I couldn’t have asked for a better literary companion for that particular journey.
A few years ago, Crossing to Safety was the book that kept coming up—not because it was a bestseller or buzzworthy—but because all kinds of people I knew in different ways kept urging me to read.
Last summer, Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak was the book I couldn’t escape. I can take a hint, so I ordered a copy and plopped it on my nightstand. (I never read it. In fact, I’d forgotten all about it until I sat down to write this post, but you better believe I’ll have it finished before the week is out.)
So why Ready Player One? I have no idea. I may not find out for weeks, or months, or maybe it was just a fluke (but I doubt it). I just know that books—like many other wonderful things—move in mysterious ways, and I’d do well to pay attention.
I want to know when this has happened to YOU. Has there been a time when you felt like you just couldn’t escape from a book? What was it, and why did you need to read it?
Books mentioned in this post: