I participated in a few hours of the Dewey Read-A-Thon last month. Sitting around reading for hours is somehow less appealing when the weather is nice, but it was also relaxing to spend some time reading with friends, with a small stack of books, tea & biscuits, strawberries, and fresh-baked muffins all on hand. There were even a couple cats!
I’m glad I brought multiple books, though, because I’m still working on “North & South” and occasionally it’s downright boring. I read all of “Eternals” and made some more progress in “Insurgent” (is it normal to want to slap Tris?), but overall, other than the food and the good company, reading that much felt kind of like a chore.
I’m choosing to blame this on my creative writing degree.
1. Every book review turns into an essay. I can’t just say whether or not I liked something – I have to detail what I liked (or didn’t) and why. Then I end up with blog essays about “Mists of Avalon” or sprawling Goodreads reviews about “The Second Duchess.”
2. I criticize books that I normally read for fun. I feel like I should be able to keep my expectations low enough to enjoy something like “The Hunger Games,” “Legend,” or “Divergent” without putting too much thought into it. They’re young-adult books, for crying out loud, but no – everything from the first-person present-tense perspective to the fragments to the unpredictable characterization suddenly jumps out at me and refuses to let me enjoy the book.
And “Requiem!” I really enjoyed “Delirium” and I’ve been telling all my friends to read it – but I’m finally on the final book of the trilogy, and suddenly it’s all love triangle all the time. And I hate love triangles. I’m never able to sympathize with characters who get caught in them, no matter how well-written they are.
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books are the same way. I enjoyed them in high school, but now for some reason I notice how every character has the same voice and the characterization is either shallow or beat-your-head-against-a-wall overdone and the concepts are really just kind of silly sometimes.
3. Racism and privilege everywhere. Sometimes – probably often – I read into things too much. For example, the lone black protagonist in “Beautiful Creatures” is basically a voodoo priestess. Is this bad? Is it even an issue? The whole book is about witches in the deep South, so it’s not really unusual that she practices magic – what’s unusual is that her form of magic requires blood sacrifices made out on the swamp. It struck me as stereotypical and off-putting…but maybe it was just me.
There’s also the opposite affect of making it hard to enjoy works by white male writers. Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” was one I’d really been looking forward to reading because I love England and snarky memoirs – but the book sounded like a lot of elitist, sexist navel-gazing. Would I have thought so if I’d read it before attending a liberal-arts college? Who knows.
Have you noticed your reading preferences changing? What books did you used to enjoy but one day couldn’t stand? Which did you initially dislike, but revisited and decided you actually enjoyed?