So good, I had to stop reading

“I couldn’t put it down” is common praise for a really good book. It means that the story is so interesting, the characters so compelling that you just have to carry on reading. But have you ever come across a book so good that you had to stop reading? I have.

Last weekend I started The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu, a collection of literary sci-fi/fantasy stories, almost all of which have been nominated for or won important short story prizes. I got two stories in (or about 25 pages out of 435) and they were so brilliant that I had to put the book down. The stories were ‘The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species’ and ‘State Change’.

the paper menagerie ken liu

The book that moved me.

For a few minutes all I did was stare into space and sigh heavily. Then I told my boyfriend about the story ‘State Change’. Then I went on the website for my local library and added every book Liu has written (and other people’s work he’s translated) to my wishlist. Finally, I got out some cross-stitch because I knew I wasn’t going to get any more reading done that evening.

These are the feelings I had that were so overwhelming I had to stop reading:

  • “I have to think about what I just read.”
  • “How on earth did he come up with those ideas?”
  • “I knew I’d like this and I can’t believe I didn’t pick it up sooner.”
  • “I will never be able to read those stories for the first time again.”
  • “I want this book to last as long as possible.”
  • “I am jealous that I can’t write like this.”
  • “I am so excited to read the rest.”
  • “I am scared to read the rest, because it might not be as good.”
  • “My heart hurts.”

the paper menagerie ken liu

My copy arrived signed by the author!

All in all, that half hour of reading had a pretty awesome emotional and physical impact on me (I could feel a lump in the back of my throat). I don’t know if the rest of the collection is going to live up to those first two stories, but it probably doesn’t matter. A reading experience like that – where you read just the right thing at just the right time for you – is rare, and I’m so lucky that it happened to me.


Have you ever read anything so good you had to put it down? Leave a comment down below – I’d love to know!

You can buy The Paper Menagerie from the Book Depository.

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