Our reviewers choose the books they want to review. I send out a list of books organized by genre, and the reviewers look for their next books to review, usually based on their favorite type of book to read. Similarly, the authors write the stories that they want to tell. Regardless of their own motivation, they have a desire to share their private stories, their secrets. In the end, our private pain connects us all. We put ourselves out there to connect with others who share our pain, experience, or love. What we do with those things makes us who we are.
In July, we lost Michael Johnson… our web administrator, my ex-husband, and the father of my child [read the tribute to him on page 2]. It was an enormous loss. In my anger towards him during the divorce, I forgot how much I loved him. I know I will see him again one day, but that’s little solace to my life now. The flood of emotions that accompanies any loss is, at the heart of it, painful. Yet, we still reach out (whether consciously or not) and look to find others who have experienced that same pain in order to relate to it, to feel “normal.”
Books of all genres do that for us. They connect us to normalcy. They entertain. They make us believe in the unbelievable. They give us hope. Regardless of the mechanism used, we are social creatures craving simplicity in our relationships, commonality, and connections.
I’ve done this “job” for three years now, and I can tell you which books will get picked up for review and which ones won’t. I can look at a book, and – based on title, cover, genre, characters, strength of writing, and overall presentation – know if the book will be picked up and reviewed or just sit on the shelf. Publishing companies pay millions to figure this all out, but the reality is that it comes down to connection. Take the most obvious: Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games… these books offer up an examination of the plight in all of us, if you’re willing to look closely. It’s all about fitting in, rising above the rest, standing up for what you believe in, and winning the prize – whatever that may be. Whether you subscribe to the story or not, we all want to feel connected; then, when we find that one thing that connects us, we feel empowered and want to delve in even more. There are no boundaries because we understand the protagonist’s pain, his plight. That’s true even in non-fiction work. We choose the books we want to read in order to fill a need, even if that need is merely the desire to be well read.
My message has always been to read and promote reading, but I’m altering that message now. We all have our own journey, our own story to tell. My message now is to connect – to find your source for strength and connect with others who share your journey. Whether you are an author or a reader, share your journey, share your pain, be authentic and connect! That’s what life is all about.
M. Chris Johnson started Portland Book Review in 2010 after being a Reviewer for Sacramento Book Review for 3 years. She loves what she does and sharing her passion for books with others of the same passion. She loves in Cornelius with her family.