I have had the worst time coming up with something to write about this month. I started three or four different drafts on different topics, only to abandon them because I got bored with myself. And then I realized that there’s something that’s been bothering me for a while and I need to get it off my chest, so I’m going to use this column as a combination soap box/therapist.
I don’t like the books I think I’m supposed to like.
I first noticed this back with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Everyone around me was reading it and loving it and I tried multiple times and just couldn’t get into it. I thought it was fluke; that I just wasn’t in the right mood. But, the thing is, I tried multiple times to read it and I could never get very far. People kept telling me to get past the first 50 or 100 pages and it would really pick up. I’m sorry, though, I just don’t have the time to spend 100 pages with a book until it gets good. It should get good right from the start. I’m sure there’s much to like about this book–and the whole Millenium Trilogy, come to that–but I obviously don’t have the patience to get there.
I also didn’t think The Fault in Our Stars was OMG The Best Book Ever! It was good. And, yes, I cried. But, I don’t understand the cult that sprang up around it. There are YA novels that are much better (Eleanor and Park, for one), but they don’t seem to inspire the same rabid fanbase as what is, in the end, a rather sentimental cancer novel. I don’t get it and I feel like a complete s**t when one of its rabid supporters asks me what I thought and all I can muster up is a tepid “It was okay.” (Of course, I stop feeling so bad when they start proselytizing. Seriously, it’s like a cult.)
I stopped reading The Goldfinch about two-thirds of the way through. Someone I know called it Dickensian, which helped me to really crystalize why the book didn’t work for me. Dickens got paid by the word and his works were serialized. Donna Tartt had no real excuse for being wordy and repetitive. And predictable. I stopped reading when I figured out how the rest of the story was going to play out. (I flipped to the end to check my assumptions about the direction in which the plot was heading and–yep–it was just as I suspected.) I actually think this could have been a book that I loved if it had lost about 200 pages. Instead, it ended up being a book I gave up on.
The latest book that I think I’m supposed to like more than I did is All the Light We Cannot See. On an objective, technical level, I can recognize that it is a well-constructed book and I can understand intellectually why others are so fond of it. However, for a book about kids in Europe during World War II, it lacked emotional punch for me. This is a book that I fully expected to make me cry, and it never even got me misty-eyed. And I cry at everything.
A few other of my reading secrets:
Gone Girl, compared to other Gillian Flynn novels, was meh. (Though it brought her lots of new readers, which is excellent.)
Dave Eggers’s writing style is way too “look at me write” for my taste and, though I admire a lot of what he does otherwise (McSweeney’s, 826 Valencia, etc.), I just can’t read his written works.
I find most memoir to be self-indulgent claptrap, written by people who find themselves far more interesting than they really are. I have my own dysfunction, thanks, I don’t particularly want to spend my time reading about yours. (This goes for most celebrities, too.)
I wish the YA novel-in-verse trend would die a quick death. (And please don’t let it proliferate outside of YA.)
I wish the same fate for the “literary genre novel.” If you want to write a zombie novel or a werewolf novel or a post-apocalyptic novel or whatever, don’t do so with the intent to “elevate the genre.” And, for Cthulu’s sake, don’t then give interviews where you disparage the entire genre you were writing in. A good novel is a good novel and a lot of authors who try to “elevate the genre” by writing a “literary genre novel” end up not actually writing good novels.
There you have them. Some of my deepest, darkest reading secrets. Okay, not really, since most of my friends already knew a lot of this. But, now I’ve shared them all with the world. And, please, don’t dump your hate on me. This is all just one reader’s opinions. I’m not trying to claim that none of the above have value or that anyone is wrong for liking them. In fact, I feel as if I’m in the wrong for not liking them. Please forgive me for not “getting it” and I promise to be indulgent of your reading secrets. (But, you have to tell me what they are, first. Come on, no one else will ever know. Tell me, what reading secrets are you keeping?)