Tuesday, 21 September 2010

"You should read at least one of hers,"

I am told. Right. There are a lot of books I apparently should read. I do not always want to read them.
Now, let's get this straight. There are a lot of things I must read. Newspapers and news feeds on the internet are a must. Reports, reviews and articles in areas of concern to me come close behind. Then there is the non-fiction, mostly in the fields of language and psychology, that I feel a certain compulsion to read and some of which I enjoy. There is the occasional knitting book.
There are certain blogs I like to prowl through - and they teach me a good deal.
When it comes to fiction however I want to choose my own reading. It is one reason why I do not belong to a book discussion group.
Book discussion groups for adults do not normally consider the merits of children's literature. I happen to like reading children's books. I like to be able to talk with children about what they have been reading. There are many children's books which are well written and they make enjoyable reading. Many adults never read a child's book. That is their choice and I accept it.
It does not appear to work the other way around.
I am constantly being told by well meaning people that I should read this or that or another thing. I am told that books are "marvellous", "fantastic" and "a great read" or that someone is a "terrific" author (terrifying?) . Then there are the award winning books and award winning authors with their literary novels, the introspective, dark and confusing novels in which nothing much seems to happen and which leave me wondering what the story was really about.
And then there are what I think of as television novels, some of them are actually television tie-ins. The characterisation is flat and the story line is full of holes. It might have been okay on the screen but does not work as a book.
One such book was thrust at me in the library on Saturday. I made a rash promise to read it. By the time I was a third of the way through the first section I was thoroughly bored. The writing did not flow. The characters were static. There were descriptions that had no relevance to the story. There were long passages of conversation that did not lead the story forward - they probably came directly from the television script. I skim read the rest of the book in half an hour and found something else to read.
What bothers me however is that I looked at the on line catalogue for the library. There are three copies of the book available for borrowing. The are no less than twenty-seven titles by this author. There are waiting lists for six more recent titles. Obviously other people do like reading these books. I wondered why and then decided that, like Enid Blyton, the books are an easy and undemanding read. It is why I could skim through the book in half and hour and still get the gist of the story line.
I think I may also be a lazy reader of fiction however. I do not want long Russian novels or literary navel gazing novels. I do not want the adult equivalent of Enid Blyton. I want something in between. I want a story line, I want some characterisation, I want the conflict that makes the reader turn the page and I want to experience something as I read it - something other than boredom.


Anonymous said...

I like childrens books too .... from picture books with a few well chosen words which are fun to read aloud, all the way through to when they turn into full novels, and then the only difference between the Young Adult and the general literature is the age of the characters.

Judy B

Rachel Fenton said...

Now go out there and write it! What you want, that is!

I love so called children's books. My tastes are broad and eclectic.

The good thing about that whole experience is that someone was thrilled enough about reading to want to pass it on - and that is what you must take from the experience (shame you had to suffer some tripe though!)

catdownunder said...

I think the writing is sometimes better Judy - children are less inclined to put up with poor writing - and padding out.
Yes, Rachel I suppose someone else was thrilled by it but I do wonder why. Is it me or them?

Nicole MacDonald said...

I know what you mean - I had a mini meltdown over this a few posts back.. though I disguised it as 'I want to write mine first.. then read yours'
I do get a bit sick of all the book reviews. I go to Amazon when I want to read reviews :) And I love my own eclectic taste thanks!!


Sheep Rustler said...

I love recommendations from people who know something about my tastes, and it can be lovely to read a book that someone has recommended because they loved it, and you loved it too. But there is no such thing as a fiction book that you MUST read (unless it is for a class you signed up for, in which case one assumes you knew what you were letting yourself in for. Using 'you' in general, not meaning 'you' as such). And I have a large collection of children's books, mostly from my own childhood, but my daughter (now 17) has always shared her books with me with enthusiasm. I guess different people like different books - a truism, of course. I once tried to read a book by Catherine Cookson, who is one of the most prolific library book borrowees in the world - couldn't get past the first chapter. Yet I am not that much of a literary snob, I have my own 'non-literary' favorites that other people would sneer at.

Miriam said...

I also like in-between books. Someone lent me a book shortlisted for the Booker prize, which I gave up on. But I'm really enjoying 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini. It's marvellous, fantastic (in my view), but not a must read. We should read what we like. There are no must reads.

Jayne said...

I also love reading children's books - especially those old Puffins. I also own quite a few picture books as I am an illustrator at heart, so books by Shaun Tan, Dave McKean, Graham Oakley - love them to pieces, but doubt an adult book reading club would settle down for a evening with a picture book!

I am a bit wary of recommendations as reading is so subjective, but sometimes a review will pique my interest. However if I don't 'get' a book everyone else has raved about I usually feel a bit thick!

Katherine Langrish said...

Wouldn't it be lovely, though, if an adult reading group could settle down and look at some of the great picture books that exist - some of which are as subtle and tender and truthful as great poems.

How I would love to spend an evening, for example, discussing Maurice Sendak's 'Outside Over There'...

Holly said...

with you on this. I don't mind recommendations. I rarely find them to my taste. There are few books today of the quality of Alcott, Eager, L'Engle (and also Klage, Jones, Duane). Those stories featuring interesting children true to their time and place in history having an adventure that might appeal to others.

Most of the rest are jump on the bandwagon. And all, and I do mean all, vampire related books need to be staked.

catdownunder said...

Well it would be worth belonging to a book group that did that Katherine!
Yes, we did discuss those Holly! Have to agree.