To Read or Not to Read…

…that IS the question.

I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that, while I love to read, I tend to read books within a fairly narrow genre. I don’t often go outside of it. When I took literature classes in high school and college, I was forced to read books I would not have probably picked up. Some of them I hated, but some of them were books that inspired and encouraged me, or made me think more deeply. I am better for those books. One that sticks out in my mind was The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Given that it’s written in old English from the 17th century, it wasn’t a book I would have gone to the bookstore and picked up. But it’s now on my list of most favorite books.

What do you tend to read? Do read things across all genres, or do you usually to stick to one or two?

There so many badly written books out there and I don’t have any desire to pursue those no matter what their purpose was for being written. But I do think it would be better for me – as a writer – to start picking up some books that I know I’ll probably disagree with, or not even enjoy, but will help me to understand what it means to be a better writer.

What’s a book you’ve avoided reading, but think perhaps you should?


17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natasha
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 23:11:43

    Yeah, I am going to read something by Dostoevsky this year. I think.

    I like mysteries a lot. I just caught up with all of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books and am impatiently waiting for March when her new book should come out. I picked up a Sue Grafton that I’d missed for a buck at Goodwill last week — but I’m bored with her, and I think Sue Grafton is bored with herself as well. I think she has a contract to write 26 books in the Kinsey series — one for each letter — and it feels like she’s stuck. I used to like Patricia Cornwell but she got pretty weird for a while and I haven’t read anything lately. Hmm, Elizabeth George and P.D. James — but again I haven’t read either of them in a couple of years. And I really like Kate Atkinson. Case Histories in particular.

    I’m looking forward to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna, but I’m too cheap to buy it and too busy to think I can finish it in a week and it’s only a 7 day book at the library…so I’ll probably wait until it’s a 14 day book or it’s out in paper.

    I don’t care for fantasy or sci-fiction.

    I’ve not been much of a romance reader, but on Dayner’s suggestion I read a book by Jennifer Crusie and it was a lot of fun. She writes great dialogue.

    I always take Jane Austen on a long plane trip, even if I have something else to read as well. I need to step back in time when the waiting in line and general craziness of flying gets to me, and there’s nothing better than Mr. Darcy at a time like that….


    • kathanink
      Jan 06, 2010 @ 12:17:15

      Ouch! I tried Dostoevsky and made about 2 chapters. It didn’t really pull me in, sorry to say.

      I am not a big mystery fan, but my husband is and he said I must read Shutter Island by LaHane. I think I might try it. He literally couldn’t put it down (I think he stayed up till 3am one night to finish it and read the book in like one day).

      I’m also not a major romance person, mainly b/c so much of it is sooooo corny. But if Dayner says it’s good, I might have to try it!

      Well, Jane Austen is absolutely awesome. I re-read her all the time. Personally I also enjoy Alexander McCall Smith and have read almost every one of his books. I think I enjoy the pastoral read: something in the country, easy going, nothing that makes the heart pump too hard since I tend to read fiction before I fall asleep! So if I pick up Shutter Island, it will be a day read, I think!


      • dayner
        Jan 06, 2010 @ 15:46:15

        yeah–for sure–98% of romance is pretty corny but I love my heros…heh heh heh. I just finished Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie. It was hard to get through with some of the bad beats and dialogue tags–but when I got to the dinner party scene at the end I laughed straight through, now I’m glad i finished it.
        Crusie isn’t as corny as most, thankfully.


        • kathanink
          Jan 06, 2010 @ 16:44:10

          I’m still planning on reading Evanovich. I want to check her out at the library and the 1st one has been out!


  2. dayner
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 15:46:00

    hum, this is a hard question. I love my chick-lit and romance so it’s hard for me to read anything else. I have no desire to read sci-fi or fantasy but I really enjoyed Harry Potter–REALLY ENJOYED! I actually read them several times. I also enjoyed Twilight, I only picked up the Harry Potter and Twilight books because my daughter was reading them and my over-protectiveness kicked in. JK Rowling is an excellent writer and the Harry Potter books are written in omniscient so it’s a good (recent) example of that POV.
    I’ve never read Dostoyevsky and keep saying I will but then I never do.


    • kathanink
      Jan 06, 2010 @ 12:11:47

      See, I have been reluctant to read Harry Potter or Twilight, partly because I detest vampire/witch stories. But also, I wasn’t sure if they were actually good, or just popular, lit. Maybe I’ll try the first HP book just to read the author….


      • dayner
        Jan 06, 2010 @ 15:41:45

        HP is also a really good story about right and wrong-dark vs. light-reliance and survival. It has a good message if you can get past the witchcraft part.

        Twilight is a good love story but not very well written.


  3. darksculptures
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 13:43:43

    I’m not one to read just a single book at a time. For some unknown reason my mind can’t stay focused on a single story line. Even when I write, I work on more than one project a day. So, currently I have several books “on the nightstand.”

    Angel Time by Anne Rice (Fiction)
    The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (Romance I think)
    There’s a New World Coming by Hal Lindsey (Bible Prophecy)
    The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes (About writing and Authoring)

    Now I have been avoiding reading a few things I’ve purchased. Demon Seed by Dean Koontz is one of those. The beginning of the story is written in first person perspective and the first person is a computer. It’s just not working for me and to be honest I don’t know if I will ever pick this book back up. I can see where a younger more tech(ie) type person might enjoy it. However, for me it is just a little too much. It’s like the Terminator meets Auldous Huxley.


    • kathanink
      Jan 05, 2010 @ 08:39:32

      You’re like my husband! I simply can’t read more than one book at a time. Actually, that’s not totally true…I always read before bed, and that’s when I like to read fiction (pref. not murder mysteries so I can sleep!). During the day I’ll tend to read NF books.

      The genre I almost never read is fantasy and/or sci fi. But while there’s tons in thos genres, there’s not a lot of good literature. Maybe Lord of the Rings of something? Can you think of anything else?


    • dayner
      Jan 05, 2010 @ 15:48:21

      I’m curious what you think of The Choice. I imagine it’s really slow for you. It was even slow for me but I hate not finishing a book after I’ve started it. It seriously made me cry though.


      • darksculptures
        Jan 05, 2010 @ 19:25:32

        I haven’t really formed an opinion yet, other than what I have read so far has been highly predictable. Example: I knew the initial conflict was her dog, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure his dog was neutered, and I knew he was going to be the vet.. ect.

        I think it is a slow read for me because so far it has been predictable. I told my husband I was going to write the end and place it in a sealed envelope just so I could see if I was right.

        I much prefer books that make me wonder what is going to happen next.


        • dayner
          Jan 05, 2010 @ 23:05:39

          Yeah, the dog stuff is obvious but the real conflict is yet to come. I felt a little stupid when I got to it because I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Then I was mad at myself and Nicholas Sparks.


          • darksculptures
            Jan 05, 2010 @ 23:11:34

            Interesting! Maybe I will read some more tonight before bed. I am almost finished with the draft I’m working on and the hubs is working late. No, I’m not canning. LOL


  4. jessicabookworm
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 11:14:08

    I know exactly what you mean, I used to be pretty fixed within just reading fantasy books. I am much better now and will usually give anything a go but still shy away from controversial/violent/tragic stories. I have recently just read and reviewed Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd a book I forced myself to read, as I just thought it would be tragic and depressing, it was actually really good! My reasoning that got me to read it is some books you read for the experience not pure enjoyment…although you might find you enjoy it in the end.


    • kathanink
      Jan 05, 2010 @ 08:36:00

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

      Fantasy & sci fi are exactly the genres I almost never read. Can you recommend any really good literature?

      Far from the Madding Crowd looks like a really interesting read. I just might pick that one up…thanks for sharing it!


      • jessicabookworm
        Jan 05, 2010 @ 11:01:14

        Good Fantasy and Sci Fi literature can be found, Tolkien is a great example for fantasy although I would recommend reading The Hobbit. It is my personal favourite and is a lot more excessible than The Lord of the Rings.
        For SciFi on the other hand I recently read and reviewed John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids. Not too much techy jargon and excellently written.


        • kathanink
          Jan 05, 2010 @ 13:33:18

          Thanks for the info! I know a lot of people who have loved LOTR, but it’s soooo long. Maybe I will try the Hobbit. I really appreciate the info and I am going to try to stretch myself in 2010!


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