Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Questions! Contests! Exclamation points!

ETA: Comments now closed so I can draw a name.

Yesterday when Blogger was being eeeeeevil, Ms. Librarian emailed me this question (as she could not simply post a comment), which I decided to use to help kick off a contest:

Apropos of nothing in particular, do you find yourself more protective of what you read as you get older? (I'm not sure I'm putting this well ...) For example, I find that I can no longer read anything in which an animal is abused or killed, even as a minor plot point. I used to be able to tell myself that such an event was illustrative of the evil of the villain, or whatever, but now, it just doesn't matter -- I won't read it, and if such a thing occurs after I've started a book, I quit the book right there. Is that weird? I also find that I don't put up with depressing books anymore. If it doesn't make me feel positive, I quit reading it. Maybe it's just that I feel like "been there, done that" and I don't want to waste any of my diminishing reading time on that sort of thing.

What do you think?

I don’t think it’s weird at all. Now we’ve covered this a bit before in “Book Therapy: Taking Your Place on the Couch,” but it deserves to be revisited. As I mentioned there that I cannot read books where a dog dies. I just can’t. I’m apparently fine when it comes to any other animal dying, something I didn’t realize until this weekend when I finished a book where a horse is put down. Now I desperately wanted a horse when I was five up until “the conversation” with my father (and I have to say, doing a cost analysis to convince your five year old that a horse just cannot happen is wrong, Dad, just wrong), and I’ve grown up around horses all my life, but the horse dying in this story fit. It advanced the plot. It gave the moment emotional impact and wasn’t something that just happened only to be forgotten a few minutes later. Had the death been for pure shock value I would have laid the book down and never come back.

As I get older I find that I’m more open to reading new genres than I was as a kid. Sure I was voracious reader even then, but I was pretty single-minded about it. It had to be something I could get my hands on, and more often than not I was drawn more to historical than scifi elements. Now, perhaps due to my job, I jump from genres to nonfiction and back again. I enjoy the diversity of the worlds that books can bring.

Sadly I have far less time to read.

“But where is the contest in all of this?” you ask. “I was promised a contest and quite possibly some chocolate.”

It’s simple. To enter this contest all you have to do is comment on Ms. Librarian’s question. Are you a more adventurous reader now or less? How have your reading likes and dislikes changed? What do you read now that you would never pick up when you were younger?

I’ll take all the names from the comments (including the anonymous ones, but please do something to differentiate yourself. Remember, you can always use your stripper name (the name of your first pet and a street you lived on), or your soap opera name (your middle name and the name of your grade school) if anonymity is important to you), and pick a name or two to win. Depending on how many people comment I might do this a couple of times this week. I don’t know. The prizes might be chocolate, or it might be a book, but it will be something worthy of putting your thoughts in a box and hitting publish.

I want this to be an open place where everyone feels comfortable commenting, and if that means offering a reward then so be it.

Comment away! You’ve got until I post the next post to make yourself heard.


lady t said...

I try to be a more adventous reader but some things I've just outgrown,like certain foods you loved as a child but wouldn't touch today,even if you were starving. I used to read quite a few mysteries but got tired of that genre awhile ago(still like the Cliff Janeway books,however)and was a major horror buff. These days,paranormal fiction has replaced most of that need for me.

Nonfiction gets to be tricky-I was big into books on film but nowadays,it's more about books on books. Occasionally I'll go for something like Nickel and Dimed or The Glass Castle to shake things up. I try to give myself challenges to shake the dust off of my tastes,like reading The Count of Monte Cristo(in it's full length form). The important thing to me is to keep it fun-otherwise,why am I doing this?

Kat said...

I lived for romance books when I was probably a little too young to be reading them, and then abruptly stopped. I have now 'discovered' chick-lit, which I enjoy (with much guilt). I admit that I rarely read non-fiction, because I prefer to escape into non-reality.

I'm really more picky with movies than with books...the movie imagery gets trapped in my head but I can gloss over the book imagery.

Susan Adrian said...

Hi BSC! Long-time reader, first-time poster. {s} All you have to do is promise me chocolate.

My reading tastes and limits have changed greatly since I had my daughter. Before I could cram books in everywhere; now they have to compete with her, spouse, writing, full-time job, friends...

Consequently, now they have to be (a) directly relevant to something I'm working on or (b) Really Good. I never used to put books down once I'd started, but now I do all the time--if it hasn't grabbed my attention by a few chapters in, it's just not worth the valuable time! For instance, I just gave away my ARC of THE HISTORIAN after reading about 10 or 12 chapters. I just didn't care enough about the characters to go on.

Another recent change has been venturing into the romance section. So far it's just been to pick up Jennifer Crusie, but it was a big step!


Word Nerd said...

My reading tastes have definitely changed, and fairly recently. I'm reading things that could be called chick lit when in the past I was snobbishly against it. In high school, I wouldn't read anything that wasn't sci-fi fantasy and now I'm bypassing most sci-fi/fantasy stuff, prefering a good murder to a prophecy about some child that's really a prince or whatever.

And as a younger reader I would never have dared pick up a book with a vampire in it. I think I was scared into believing I would end up possessed or somesuch from that kind of fare. But vamp stories, or other books with paranormal characters are now fairly regular reading.

fusenumber8 said...

When I was young, and beautiful, and life was full of sweet smells and pretty flowers I was a far pickier reader than I am now. The whole don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover theory? Doesn't apply to 12-year-old daughters of booksellers, I can tell you. It gets worse. If the book started to bore me in any way I'd continue "reading" it in such a way that my eyes would pass over the words while my brain turned off until it saw a magic word like "blood" or "horrific gore". In this way I "read" everything by Susan Cooper but only retained about a chapter here and there.

Now I read everything. Everything that's a children's book, that is. You couldn't have forced me to choke down a historical novel when I was a kid, but now I devour the puppies like they were popcorn. Delicious crunchy popcorn. Partly this is my job at work. I'm a children's librarian and I have this strange feeling that unless I read anything and everything out there, I have somehow failed my calling. Also, I've grown a nice thick mental skin in my old age.

Oh, but adult novels? I don't read anything considered Chick Lit, that I know has some sort of torture in it, or that's considered ahhhht. Put all that stuff in a kids' book, however, and I'm a happy camper.

Jennie said...

I'm a more adventurous reader since I've gotten older. When I was a kid I'd read my old favorites over and over again. I had whole chunks of L.M. Montgomery memorized. Now I like to try new authors.

But one thing has stayed the same--I'm a sucker for a love story. It doesn't have to be the main story, I like mysteries and fantasies too, but there has to be a little bit ot romantic tension for me to really love a book.

Anonymous said...

I find that I am more adventorous when it comes to branching out and reading different genres, but I still keep my favorite types that I collect they are going out of style. I have never been able to handle the death of dogs, especially when it was cruel and so not necessary!

Kristie aka Candy Cheyenne (my stripper name) and aka Elsie Ottawa (my soap opera name)

Noelle said...

When I was in elementary school, Where the Red Fern Grows had unprecedented popularity among the girls in my class. However, I refused to read when I heard they all liked it because it made them cry. I didn't want to read a book knowing that it would make me cry, and I held out on that for years until The Lovely Bones came out, which I read despite myself. I don't know what it was, maybe the fact that I finally surrendered myself to a book with so many heartstring tugs, but I cried aloud while reading it. Now that I’ve been broken of the crying fear, I let myself cry at many more things, most notably the end of every single Harry Potter book.

Another significant change in my reading habits is that I no longer force myself to read a book I don't like. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot slower lately, and I therefore don’t want to waste a minute on a book that I’m not really taking in. There is an ever present and growing stack of new books to read, and the ability to say no to a book that doesn’t do it for me gives me a feeling of control over that looming pile.

I don’t think that I’ve been reading long enough to eliminate types of books yet, but I can see how that happens when you have the experience and really know what you want and what you like.

Flood said...

It's been hard for me to find something that looks good to read. I have found that as I get older, I have more patience for classics and mysteries. It's probably because I can finally appreciate the building of a plot, whereas when I was younger, I wanted something exciting to happen in each chapter. If something is well written, I don't concern myself with where it is going, I just enjoy the ride.

I am reading Wind In The Willows right now, and The Complete Sherlock Holmes, which never would have happened ten years ago.

Sue said...

I am both more and less adventurous a reader now that I am older.

One being less so:
First, I find "tone" important. I think, like Ms Librarian, I don't want depressing; I want hopeful or nostalgic. In nonfiction I want positive instruction or enlightenment. I am so tired of angry or hopelessness.

I am also less tolerant of stylistic quirks. I used to be able to read and enjoy just about anything in the categories I read. Today, no. I have to like it. (Again, it's that "tone" thing.)

On being more so:
In my youth I pretty much just read genre, but today, I read a wider range of works both fiction and non-fiction, genres and mainstream, more types of genre (not westerns yet), though they must have that "tone" or be instructive in a positive way.

Kerry said...

I think in terms of what genres, types, etc I will read I'm remained a steady avid reader. More inclined to modern stuff and less classics, because hey--I've got nothing to prove intellectually. What's changed is that I allow myself to be more opinionated about what I read and am less inclined to be respectful or nice about what is considered good literature. If I didn't like it or think it didn't work, I'll tell you why and I won't couch it in "Well, this doesn't do it for me..." I also respect the point where I half to stop reading if it's too emotionally tough at the moment. The last book I had to do that with was Martin Limon's Buddha's Money, because of ongoing child torture. Too icky and sad.

christine fletcher said...

Like Noelle and others, I no longer make myself finish books I don't like (a great relief to my boyfriend, to whom I used to complain as I read).

Over the last five or six years, I've gotten more adventurous in exploring contemporary mainstream literature, rather than sticking with my beloved classics or historical fiction. Richard Russo is my most treasured find!

Martha Brockenbrough said...

I've become more clear about what I like and what I don't like -- I now steer clear of really bleak novels and have given myself permission to enjoy young adult and fantasy without feeling I'm letting my melon rot.

Ms. Librarian said...

May I make an addition to my previous comments?

Like Christine, I no longer feel obligated to finish every book I start. If the first 50 pages bore me, I have a bad habit of flipping to the end and checking to see if the ending is "any good." If not, I send the book to used-book heaven. (www.paperbackswap.com - I love it!)

I also don't read a lot of classics (literally - I read them all in school - I read very fast) and I hate modern "liturachur."

Most of what I read these days (that isn't for a work project) is escapist - romances, mysteries, science fiction, and biographies/memoirs.

Fickle Fiona said...

I think I was a more adventurous reader when I was younger. Or maybe it was just voracious. I was still forming my opinions, my likes and dislikes, so I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Not so now. I know what I like, I know who I like and I know that life is too short to be spending it on plots and authors that are a waste of my time. I don’t restrict myself to a certain genre or author, but I don’t flit from pond to pond anymore either.

I think the actions of the characters have changed the most for me (regarding what I will tolerate). When I was younger, I could take a cheating hero or heroine. I was not in monogamous relationships and I could understand the action. Not so now. I also did not like older heroines. If a heroine was older than 25, I would get stuck on the age to the point of not finishing the book. I remember once in college I started a book and the heroine was 32…I put it down, on page 2, and never looked at it again. Now, I would read it without blinking an eye.

I have also noticed a change regarding children. In ‘the old days’ I would read books with children and didn’t really think about the fact that they were there, let alone how they are treated. It bothers me now. Not only do authors rarely get the child voice correct, but I always feel like they are being ignored…aka neglected. Since children are rarely the focus of romance novels, I tend to feel they are getting the shaft, therefore, I just steer clear for self-preservation.


jmc said...

I prefer NOT to read stuff that will make me cry or depress me. Yes, I want to be touched in some way by what I read, but I'd prefer a laugh to tears. The only book that I re-read regularly, knowing that I will cry is LM Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside. As a result, I am careful about my selection of literary fiction, which sometimes seems to tend toward the dark side rather than the lighter side. [Aside, I always wonder, isn't literature supposed to enlighten and uplift? Do writers forget about the uplifting part?]

Otherwise, there isn't really anything that I refuse to read. I might hurl the book away in disgust when I encounter something that offends me, though :)

My reading tastes have expanded as I've gotten older, most recently to include science fiction and fantasy, which I used to equate with the D&D crowd only. In the past couple of years, I've become less patient with books. Used to be that I would stick with a book until the middle, in the hope that it would improve. Not anymore. Fifty pages. If the author hasn't hooked me, back to the library the book goes. I do the 10 page book test while still at the bookstore -- if it hasn't hooked me then, but it's sort of interesting, I'll add it to the library list.

molly said...

I've gotten both more and less adventurous in my reading. The real change is that I'm more sure of my own taste, and less influenced by what I think I "should" be reading and enjoying.

As some other people already said, I don't read books anymore where the tone is depressing and hopeless. There's enough pain and suffering in reality, I don't need to spend my leisure time having some author trying to convince me that LIFE IS PAIN or whatever. I used to equate angst with literary merit. But of course that's false, and now I just read what I enjoy, and leave the depressing books to people who dig 'em. Along the same lines, I don't read prose that seems gimmicky, overly stylized or all dreamy and vague anymore. Give it to me straight up, please.

On the flip side, I've become a lot more adventurous about non-fiction. I used to think it was boring, now it makes up the majority of my reading. I especially like science and history books and books about language. Maybe I had to be done with school before my brain was ready to enjoy all that learning. ;)

mwb said...

I've always been fairly willing to try new things as a reader. Of course as I've gotten older the more I sample the broader the horizons have become. And the more familar I become with things the harder it is for something to strike me as original (I often settle for entertaining.)

But I will admit that I have moods where I simply won't read certain subjects for books (oh dear god - not another book about a middle aged academic contemplating having an affair or yet another memoir about someone whose parents said no them once so they never achieved their potential!)

I've gotten a lot better about simply not reading things I'm not enjoying. I've gotten worse about reading the ends of books before I decide if I want to read it which drives many people I know crazy!

mwb said...

I've always been fairly willing to try new things as a reader. Of course as I've gotten older the more I sample the broader the horizons have become. And the more familar I become with things the harder it is for something to strike me as original (I often settle for entertaining.)

But I will admit that I have moods where I simply won't read certain subjects for books (oh dear god - not another book about a middle aged academic contemplating having an affair or yet another memoir about someone whose parents said no them once so they never achieved their potential!)

I've gotten a lot better about simply not reading things I'm not enjoying. I've gotten worse about reading the ends of books before I decide if I want to read it which drives many people I know crazy!

Bernita said...

At first I read nothing but fiction,and anything fiction, then went through a period where I read nothing but non-fiction.
Now I'm back with fiction, this time primarily and selectively fantasy.
I cannot bear to read of animals being hurt or killed, or a child abused, and have developed a strong dislike for most literary novels.

Wendy said...

My reading choices have certainly changed since I discovered the blogosphere. I used to read at least one book (usually romance,
sci/fi or thriller)per day, but now find it takes me more like a week to read a book.
I find it very hard to get off the net and like to check my favourite blogs often. My husband calls them my imaginary friends.
Also, not many dogs killed on blogs.
Loved my stripper name- Monkeyface Barrier. The soap opera name was scary because it sounded so much like a soap opera name.