In which I discuss literary tastes – my own and those of those around me

When I was a kid, I used to be a highly prolific reader. I would make four and five trips to the library every week and check out four or five books each time. And not “kids’” books, either. I kind of skipped those. I started on the Baby-Sitters Club when I was 8 or 9 and never looked back. I would occasionally check out a Dr. Seuss book for fun but for the most part, I never read children’s books. I don’t know exactly what it was, some sort of motion sickness, if I were to hazard a guess, but I recall a couple of instances of reading until I was literally sick of it. Not anything drastic but definitely a queasy stomach and headache.

Which, I accept, sounds like a bad thing. No one wants to feel crummy and if reading makes you feel crummy, why do it? But it didn’t slow me down.

Sadly, what did slow me down was life. Like most kids, the majority of my pleasure reading was done in the summers between grades and when those summers began to include things like work and cheerleading camp, I suddenly had less time for pleasure reading and would cut back to five or ten books in the three months of summer. And that was a huge thing for me. But nothing like what it would become. College meant full-time summer job to build up my savings from the year before and course work reading during the year (as an English major, it was still a lot of “pleasure” reading – literature and poetry – but not a lot of what I got to choose for myself).

Now that I am a bonafide adult, out of school and working for a living (or not, on both accounts, technically), I feel like I am lucky to get five books read in a year. I still love to read and when I get a chance to just sit and enjoy a book, and find a good, riveting story, I will completely lose track of everything and keep myself up until 2 or 3 in the morning. And the closer I get to the end of a story, the worse it becomes.

But this really isn’t about that. What brought me here is my taste in reading material. I find myself, more often than not, completely disinterested and disengaged by the material that is so highly recommended to me by avid reading peers who share my obsession with stories and words and pages. One that stands out to me at the moment is The Fault in Our Stars. I have not spoken with anyone who did not love this book. I, however, trudged and plodded through six chapters of what I felt was a medically sterile narrative crafted by an author trying – and, subsequently, failing – to write outside his own gender before giving up completely. Perhaps if it were written in the third-person point of view it would have been more pleasant for me. I don’t know but as it stands, I don’t know if I will ever go back to it.

And I think that’s terrible. I’ve heard so many great things about it that I feel like I should give it a chance. But I have waded through far too many epically disappointing tomes in my life to volunteer for yet another. At the same time, it makes me wonder, why can’t I love the same things that everyone else does, literarily speaking? House of Leaves is another. Most people either love it or give up before they have suffered through enough to really understand what it means to hate it. I finished it. I finished it out of pure stubborn need to say it did not better me. But I have never wanted to throw a book more in my life. I wanted to heave it into a river…and possibly push the author in after it.

That is not to say I didn’t understand it. I did. I think. I just hated it.

I don’t feel like it goes the other way. I don’t feel like I love books that the majority of people hate. I mean, I get that not everyone is going to love everything but for the most part it seems like when I recommend a book to someone, they enjoy it. But when someone recommends one to me, it’s pretty unpredictably hit and miss whether I will come away having had an enriching experience. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And I hate the “sometimes, nos.” The “sometimes, nos” leave me wondering what I missed. This was supposed to be amazing and I kind of just want to rewind to before I ever started and just…not start.

I’m not really sure what you, as readers, are supposed to glean from all of this. I’m not even sure what I was supposed to get out of it, but it’s something that crosses my mind every time someone gets adamant about recommending a book I hated.

Why? Why did I hate this when so many others loved it? What am I missing?

One thought on “In which I discuss literary tastes – my own and those of those around me

  1. I feel like that a lot. For me, the majority of it has to do with the buildup. If everyone’s told me it’s brilliant and life changing, but it’s really only good and enjoyable, I find myself feeling disappointed and annoyed.

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