Best of 2013: S, by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams

This was supposed to be posted Friday, but a bout with a stomach bug left me flat on my back all day. I’ll post two today, in order to stay on track with the final “Best of” titles for 2013.

S., by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams. Mulholland, 456 pp. October 2013

While we’re on the subject of books that completely blow your mind, let me tell you about S.. S. is not really a book, but more of a reading experience thought up by media giant J.J. Abrams and acclaimed novelist Doug Dorst.

And I say this is a reading experience because in order to grasp the scale of the story you need to read this multiple times. I read this book four times–in one week–and each time I read it the story just kept building.

S., at its core, is the story of two readers trying to understand a text they’re both studying. Except they’ve never met. They interact solely through this book, of which they write in the margins and leave in the library for the other to find.

But inside of that story there’s the text itself, titled Ship of Theseus and authored by the fictional V.M. Straka, in which a man who does not know who he is or where he’s from gets captured and thrust into a strange and dangerous journey.

As I read this book, I fell in love with the puzzle it created. In the same way that we read Eric and Jennifer–the two readers who communicate via the margins–delve deeper into the story of Ship of Theseus and V.M. Straka, we dive deeper into their story and into the mystery of the story they’re studying. We’re on this journey with them. Even reading things out of order, at least out of the order I believe, can be confusing. The trick is to figure out not only what the story is, but how to read it in a way that makes sense.

S. reawakened my love for reading, and I love that about this book. In reading Ship of Theseus, I rediscovered what I had loved about academic literature. In reading Eric and Jennifer’s story, I rediscovered why I love studying literature, and what power language has in our lives.


About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

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