Reading Challenge 2016 · Reviews

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick

As previously mentioned, the hashtag #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks captured my attention in a big way. It inspired me to take a good look at how many books I own that I have not yet read, and the results were sobering. Which is to say: I own too many books that I have not yet read, and it’s time I gave those books my attention.

I’m ambivalent about annual reading challenges, as I’ve seen they can sometimes have unintended consequences, of the undesirable sort. For the foreseeable future, I won’t be doing any challenges that involve reading a particular number of books per year. But a challenge that invites me to rediscover the books I bought that have somehow managed to disappear into my tottering stacks (before being read, I might add) sounds excellent. The temptation to purchase wonderful, intriguing new books will be fierce, I expect. But I will do my best to keep tackling those existent stacks.

To kick things off, I began by compiling a list of five recently purchased titles and plan to update with more as the year goes on. I’m quite excited to see what I’ll discover. I’m equally excited to be able to announce that I dove right in on New Year’s Day by reading Brian Selznick’s beautiful, moving The Marvels.

The Marvels

When I bought it: The day it came out (September 15, 2015).

Why I bought it: Because Selznick’s previous novels were pure enchantment and deeply moving. He explores themes that preoccupy me. As a bonus, I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago, and he was a lovely human being.

Why I didn’t read it right away: Lord knows.

For those who are not familiar with Selznick’s work, The Marvelss is the third book in what he refers to as a trilogy, along with Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The three books constitute a trilogy not because they follow the same characters in the same settings but because they explore the same themes and questions. And the stories in all three are told through both images and words, though in different ways.

As in the two previous books, The Marvels explores loss, redemption, the importance of finding one’s purpose, and the power of storytelling. Visual art exists to propel the narrative forward, rather than to express or complement the narrative. Where the use of images differs in The Marvels: Through visuals only, the first four hundred plus pages tell the story of the Marvels, five generations of a theater family in London. The following two hundred plus pages tell an intersecting story only through text. As the story progresses, readers discover that this from serves a meaningful purpose within the narrative, and a powerful one.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It is beautiful in every way that a book can be beautiful, from the jacket design, to the interior visual art, to the story and its message. And I must add that, though the book is available as an e-book, this is one of those occasions where, if possible*, readers benefit from reading it in hardcover. You’ll see why when you read it.

Meanwhile, here is the book trailer:

*I say “if possible” because I know some of us read electronically by necessity. 

2 thoughts on “#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick

  1. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover…but damn. The cover alone makes me want to check this one out! Glad you enjoyed it – and it does sound really amazing.

    1. It really is – beautiful and thought-provoking. And I definitely see how he’s circling around the same themes as in “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

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