Monday, July 12, 2010

A Boring, Self-Indulgent Post about Books (but I wanted to store the info somewhere)

Why can’t I find something I enjoy reading?

I tend to inundate myself with non-fiction books, so once in a while I like to break it up with a novel. But I’m having a devil of a time finding something I enjoy.

I took two recommendations from the internet (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe and Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison) and hated them both. “What is wrong with me?” I think.

BTW, if I’d have written: “What is wrong with me?” I think to myself.

… isn’t the phrase ‘I think to myself’ redundant? I mean, who else would you be “thinking to”?

Anyway, back to books. There have been things in the past I greatly enjoyed: Mary Stewart, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Dorothy Gilman, Stephen King, Clive Barker, J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, etc.

But I have no desire to re-read anything.

So I went to Amazon to see may or may not be wrong with me. :-) I looked at the reviews of these books.

Although the overwhelming majority of people like or even love “Dead Witch Walking” by Kim Harrison, it’s nice to find some words I am in total agreement with:

Kim Harrison is an author with a lot of good ideas but absolutely no idea how to translate them to the page. If there was ever an author in desperate need of a ghost writer, here she is. The plotting, description, dialogue and action are disasters. The first third of the book goes by with next to nothing happening. And by the time something does happen it's far too late for the reader to care.

That this series has got so much attention is a complete mystery to me. It is no better than most of the obscure fantasy series from emerging authors out there, and yet somehow it has found rather a lot of fame. Why? What makes this dragging, poorly-written story so appealing?


Well, all this talk about fiction and my inability enjoy it anymore still has me wondering if it’s me… like when your taste buds change or something.

Or maybe I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like to read (except that I don’t know it yet).

Let me look back on books I’ve read and really enjoyed.

The very first book I remember reading at all was “The Black Stallion”. I was in sixth grade. I loved the book! But I was eleven, so don’t trust that recommendation for my present age.

The next book I remember reading (and when I say “remember reading”, it means things that I remember… not always an easy task… but certainly doesn’t mean the books I’m mentioning are the only books I’ve ever read) was Moonchild by Aleister Crowley. I don’t recall my opinion of it, so we’ll pass on that.

At fifteen, “The Hobbit” I swallowed practically without breathing… but the following trilogy wasn’t something I could get all the way through. I think I made it to the middle of the middle book… what’s that, The Two Towers?

At sixteen, a friend recommended “The Crystal Cave”. I loved it and read it many times after that, along with it’s three companion books (although I think it should have been two).

Apparently I really liked Mary Stewart’s writing, because as a teen/young adult I also read all her romance novels. At the time I didn’t know they were “romance novels”. Upon learning that, however, I decided to try out other romance novels and gathered the ones with the top recommendations. Hmph! Not my cup of tea.

My sister turned me on to Robert Heinlein. I read his “young adult” novels as a not-really-so-young adult and loved most of them, “The Door Into Summer” particularly. Throughout the years, I’ve read a few more, here and there. Just read “Stranger in a Strange Land” last year, as a matter of fact.

Although I’ve read a several Heinlein novels (The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, Farmer in the Sky, The Puppet Masters, The Door Into Summer, Have Space Suit Will Travel, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Podkayne of Mars), there are a ton I haven’t read. Maybe I should look into this.

At 30, I realized I was one of the few adults who’d never read “Catcher in the Rye”. So I read it then but couldn’t tell you one thing the book was about. Apparently it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I don’t recall fighting my way through it, though… that’s good.

In my early thirties, when I told my dad I loved the short stories of Arthur C. Clarke, he recommended the “Rama” series by Clarke and Gentry Lee. I enjoyed those.

My mom turned me on to Dorothy Gilman’s “Mrs. Pollifax” series (along with Agatha Christie and Carlos Castenada). Loved those (the Pollifax books), but now it’s getting kinda… meh for me.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, but mostly short stories, I think.

At the recommendation of a co-worker, I read some of the Lilian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who…” series. I enjoyed them, but just like most series, I tire of them eventually.

Same with Sue Grafton’s alphabet books. Loved the first half a dozen or so, but now… not that interested.

I like the occasional Stephen King novel, but they can be so hit and miss. I liked Insomnia and The Green Mile. Monica swears by “Cujo”, but I can’t fathom the idea of reading a book that is about a woman (and child?) trapped in a car with a rabid dog outside. Then again, the premise of Gerald’s Game wasn’t any more elaborate and I remember enjoying that.

I can’t remember which Agatha Christie books I’ve read, but maybe I should try something along those lines next.

In my twenties, I read some of Carlos Castenada’s books. Fiction… non-fiction… ??? I may revisit those… I really don’t remember in the slightest what they were about.

I remember thinking “East of Eden” by James Steinbeck was brilliant.

Which brings up my list of authors I’ve only read once or twice:

Sight Unseen by Audrey Erskine Lindop (which seems to be the only book she’s ever written)
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
The Firm by John Grisham
Shards by Tom Piccirilli
Prey by Michael Crichton
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Intensity by Dean Koontz

When the kids were six and three, I started reading J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series to them. We’ve all loved those books.

Well, I’m sure there are others, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Sort of a pathetically thin, way too diverse bunch.

I was considering maybe trying “Illusions” by Richard Bach.

I feel like trying some Ayn Rand, but not just yet… I need something light first.

I think I’m gun shy, though. The last two “light” novels I tried bored me to tears. I’m afraid the trend will continue. And no, this doesn’t mean I need depth to my reading. Ha! Look over my list of previous “likes”… there’s plenty of shallow there for everyone. I do, however, like to be captivated.

I know this isn’t like one of my usual blogs, but it serves a purpose for me. I’m blogging it so I can remember authors I’ve read and enjoyed and maybe revisit.

3 comments:

Chris said...

While I'm not usually a fad person....if you haven't read the Twilight series, they are a very good read. I'm not overly impressed with the movies, but the books are very good. She also has a non teen book called, The Host (which is on my list to read). Sidney Sheldon and Robin Cook books are pretty good.

RockerJewlz said...

The novel that brought me back to recreational reading was The 13th Tale by Diane Setterfield. It sounds like a horror story but isn't. If you like a little romance and a lot of English countryside and manor living and tension between the classes, this is written very well.

Sort of along those same lines I most recently loved the romantic mystery by Kate Morton called The Forgotten Garden.

My favorite part of both books is the style of writing...good luck!

Maren aka hilobeads aka Palms, Etc. said...

The Shipping News?

It's a bit old now, but my parents left it here, and I read it at some point when I was reading fiction. - I only read fiction when I'm on vacation. -