Monday, January 07, 2013

Thoughts on the Duds

As requested and promised, I wanted to talk a bit about the books that didn't do much for me this year.  These are the ones I put down, but also the ones I look back on without any particular fondness.

Not every book is going to be a life-changer, of course.  But I don't expect them to be, and that's not the standard I'm using here.  Looking back over the list, there were just quite a few books that kind of fizzled for me.  And, reviewing, I think I can pinpoint a couple of good reasons--Netgalley and bloggers.

Netgalley's pretty obvious--they're kind enough to give me ebooks to read and review.  But since they're generally pre-release books, there is very little information to go on when selecting them--a cover and a blurb.  They're usually by authors I haven't read, they don't provide a sample, and (by definition) few or no reviews exist yet. 

This means it's a craps shoot to pick one up, but when I do, I try to give it an honest shot.  That's not to say that I don't put them down when I need to, but I give them more of a chance than I might otherwise, just because I value the service and want to do my part for them in good faith.  This has meant reading a good handful of books that I either didn't like or, as often, just didn't quite click with.  Safekeeping and The Tragedy Paper are good examples of this. 

Really, you can expand on this a bit to any form of free ebooks.  They're so easy--I don't have to go to the get them, I can just log in and grab whatever vaguely interesting stuff the library has on Overdrive.  This has led me to start things I should not have bothered with.

Book bloggers are by far a really great addition to my reading and blogging life.  It's fascinating to see how my tastes align with some people, to see where we differ, or where one of us expands on another. But I have this annoying habit of putting any book that crosses my radar and doesn't sound actively off-putting onto my to-read list.  I think to-read and noticed-the-existence-of are way too closely related in my world.  Which has meant that quite a few inconsequential books--especially YA--have caught my attention. 

Really, the more I think about it, the less I think it's the bloggers.  I get YA recommendations all the time, and there's so much great YA that I really love that I take those suggestions.  But to be honest, there are books that are really meant for kids, and I've (finally, at 36) grown past them.  Almost anything that's actually about high school holds almost no appeal to me.  There are also a few trends in YA that are going on right now that I have no interest in, even when people whose opinions I trust enjoy them--the afterlife is a big one (The Catastrophic History of You and Me, The Everafter)--as well as ones I've enjoyed that have been ridden right down into the ground--the end of the world in all its forms (No Safety in Numbers, Monument 14, the whole Matched series).

Of course, there are exceptions to every one of these rules I'm mentioning.  I read The Mist this year, and enjoyed it, even though the world ended.  I loved Beautiful Music for Ugly Children and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, both of which are about high school.  These aren't rules, they're just patterns.  The exceptions are what keep me coming back for more tries.

But I think I'm getting better.  I think sheer age is changing me--I'm more aware of the fact that I only read about 100 books a year, and that I'm not going to get to read All The Books in my time on earth, so I might as well read the ones I want to.  I've also been working consciously on not worrying too much about making the wrong decision.  I mean, if someone tells me that I, personally, must read a book to the end because it will, in their opinion, speak to me, I will give it a shot.  But just because everybody likes something doesn't mean I have to like it.  I think I'm starting to get over the notion that everyone else knows something I don't, and that I'm just missing the point when I don't feel as they do.

Luckily, Long-Awaited Reads Month will get me off on the right foot in this area.  I've put off way too many books I'm excited about following up on passing whims.  Now I'm going to focus a little on the things that keep getting back burnered.  Part of this, I think has been dread that I won't love the books I've anticipated as much as I'd like to.  I think I'm going to need to be okay with that. 

See this?  I'm growing as a person.


Lianna Williamson said...

Thank you so much for this, Sharon! I've been struggling with this, particularly recently as I've been gearing up for my Read the Shelf-Sitters challenge.

The book that inspired me to make the request is Outlander. It's a case where people seem to loooooove this book so much, and I'm anxious that if i give up on it because it's not ringing my chimes, I'll miss something awesome.

I don't have a problem rejecting a book if it's poorly written, or the characters are annoying, or the plot swan-dives into a minivan-sized hole. But IMO, Outlander doesn't have any of these problems-- it's well-written, and the characters and well drawn. But I'm Just Not That Into It, for whatever reason. I've enjoyed reading the first half, but I don't care what happens next. Argh. WHY am I having such a hard time giving up on this book?! It's so long, and I have so many other boks on my list.

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

"I'm more aware of the fact that I only read about 100 books a year, and that I'm not going to get to read All The Books in my time on earth, so I might as well read the ones I want to."

Yes, exactly - and this was pretty much the realisation that led to LAR Month. The more I think about it, the more I want to strive to make it an ongoing reading philosophy rather than just an event.