I have been wanting to read Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko for months. But at nearly 500 pages, it’s been impossible for me to get into. I read the first twenty pages about ten times before drifting off to sleep over the month of February. Every time I cracked the front cover, I was really interested. But then fatigue took over, and I tossed the book to the floor.
On a recent Sunday, I got into bed early specifically to read this book. But I brought my iphone and the newspaper with me, and that was a bad idea. Even though I had placed my phone on silent, I could still see the texts rolling in. Then a friend called, and I picked up, and that was that.
Packing for a cross-country trip last night, I decided that I would spend the five hours on board reading Pachinko. Because if not then, never. I carefully placed every possible item of distraction into my checked luggage and in my carry-on, only Lee’s novel.
Before the plane took off, I read those first twenty pages again. In flight, I continued unrelentingly until I had finished the entire thing.
Was it worth it? Yes, definitely. Pachinko is a really good book. It has compelling characters, great plot twists, and a sweeping historical background. I think I cried three separate times. It isn’t a perfect book, and parts of it I had to skim, but overall, I agree that it deserves its designation as a National Book Award Finalist.
But beyond that, the exercise of reading an entire novel cover to cover was worth it to me. I had to prove to myself that I could still do it. I used to do it all the time, but amid the bustling years of raising children, working full time, and keeping pace with all of the various forms of communication now expected, I rarely read that way anymore.
There’s nothing quite like it, either — reading a book in one bite. Ok, in one long, drawn-out meal. Like hurtling through time and space toward a far-off destination in an airplane, it’s something that becomes strange only when not regularly done.