The Bardo Between Good Books

Bardo:  the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth

Some people leave lovers and relationships and find themselves in a waiting game, biding their time until the next man or woman of their dreams comes along to make them happy again. I do this with books, and right now I’m between good books.

You know that place, the in between space of a really good book you just finished and the one you haven’t found yet to replace it. It’s like a pause in your life, and you flounder around, looking for the next great story that will be even better than the one you just read.

Good books take on a life of their own. Reading a really good book has the ability to transport you to a whole new life. You can become so involved with the characters or the story that you actually become that person in the book. At the very least, you can become someone who is there, the spectator watching the action. But when you finish the book, you’re left in a kind of limbo, a Bardo-like place where you’re still halfway involved in the story, but you have to make your way back into the real world. So you search for a new book, one that will be just as good, if not better than, the one you just finished.


I just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. After reading some awful reviews of the last book, Mockingjay, I was reluctant to start the series. I didn’t like The Hunger Games at all when I first tried to read it. It was all so bleak and gray and depressing. I started it and put it aside after the first few chapters. Then Michael went to San Francisco on business without me, and my mood was all so bleak and gray and depressing, so I figured it was the perfect time to pick up The Hunger Games and try again.

I enjoyed it much more the second attempt. The book is well written, and that’s half the battle won for me. The story, however, made me squirm. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, and the chapters covering the actual hunger game left me feeling downright shell-shocked. I felt like I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by the time I finished the book.

But, of course I had to immediately read the second installment, Catching Fire, and I was sufficiently toughened up enough after reading the first book to continue on. Another tough read, but I liked the continuation of the story and the introduction of new characters. By the time I got to the final book,  Mockingjay, I had a lot invested in the characters and wondered how the author would finish everything off. After reading the slew of bad reviews, I was slow to start it, knowing I would be disappointed–but I LOVED it!

Wow, I could go on and on about Mockingjay, I loved it that much. In many ways it was even tougher to read than the first two, but it was a much deeper and introspective book than the others.

I went back and read the reviews of people who hated the third installment and realized that, almost to a person, they all really, really loved the first two books. Since I didn’t, I figured it made sense that I would prefer the last book. Also, many seemed to want a fairy tale, superhero, happy kind of ending. I appreciate instead the way the author ended the story in an intelligent, realistic manner.

I won’t give away any more of the books for those who haven’t read them, but I just saw the trailer for the movie version of the first book, The Hunger Games, and it looks amazing! I can’t wait to see it.

Anyway, after being unexpectedly surprised with such a great book, now I’m left in a kind of book bardo state. I’m one of those people who can’t read just one book at a time. Before I got the Kindle, I was the person who had ten books stacked up on their nightstand. I have books in every room of the house. There’s never enough time to read.

But finding that really great book is not always easy. To help tide me over, I’ve decided to read a chick-lit, fluffy, intellectually undemanding book set during the holidays. Sometimes books like that are just fun to read.

Are you going to be my rebound book, or the real deal?

I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to that . . .

Cry for help! What was the last really great book you read?


  1. Skippingstones

    You know, I can’t remember the last really great book I read…maybe The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. That’s on my night stand because I keep meaning to re-read it.

    I have enjoyed the Flavia De Luce series of mystery novels, too. Shes 11, I think, very precocious, very into poisons. I think those are well written and they suck me in so that I want to read it all in one day. When I get done with one, I want the next one right away, but have to wait for it to be written :).

  2. A Wanderer

    It’s hard to say… There are so many amazing books out there but here are a few of my faves…

    If you are wanting another series to fall in love with, check out Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass, Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass series. It is borderline adult/kid fantasy at its best.

    If you like a little classic Brit humor, Scoop by Evelyn Waugh is great.

    For pure fluff, Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret is fun.

    As for a little more literary minded….

    The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley

    Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (disturbing but riveting)

    The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

    Blame by Michelle Huneven

  3. Patti Ross

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is well worth the time and effort to read. It really pulls you in. Lately I have been reading escapist murder mysteries by such authors as Evanovich, Conant, Truman, and Grafton. But for what i would label good books, I have recenty reread The Life of Pi and again enjoyed the humanity and questioning that comes through loud and clear. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible was one that I ended up really liking, as it created its own world but it took me several chapters to get hooked, to not give up. I tend to like her perspective so have picked up a couple more of hers to read next–I’ll post some reviews once I finish them: The Lacuna and Prodigal Summer.

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks for the suggestions. I almost purchased The Life of Pi the other day and let it pass. Everyone I know who has read it loved it. It’s one of those books I know I will read one day, but it has to be the right time. I read Prodigal Summer years ago and loved it, as I did her previous novels. For some reason I tend to read more nonfiction these days, maybe because I can put it down and let it sit for a few days. When I read fiction, and I like the story, I tend to find myself curled up on the couch for hours while nothing else gets done. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either . . .

  4. MikeW

    This post is another gem I had not been around to read earlier on. Your essay on reading inspires me to read more, and to hope you are feeling well enough to read right now. You are much appreciated!

      • MikeW

        I am glad to see your photo and your words. Big gap in the blogosphere when you’re out, but I know you have more important focus right now. Still with you.

      • Mind Margins

        Thanks, Mike. I’ll be back. Just trying to conserve energy at the moment and get through this. Your support means a lot to me.

      • MikeW

        Do that. Sleep on and conserve. Don’t answer this one. Just mend, you and yours together.

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