Thing Two asks

At the end of his comment here, Thing Two asks:
PS - Apropos of the "not the intended audience" thing. I am interested in the mental gymnastics which older readers mus go through when they read this stuff as part of their job. Is this a learned behaviour which comes with training, professionalism and experience?
Now, he knows that I read many, many books for which I am not the intended audience. So, how do I do it?

Well, part of it is what C.S. Lewis once said:
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
(ok, he said two things. sue me.)

Thing is, I do sometimes question what I've read. Is it a bad book, or is it that I'm just too old to appreciate it? Often, as in The Case of Origami Yoda, I can see why younger readers will like it even if it doesn't really excite me. A book like Savvy, on the other hand, can interest both me and teen readers (even though a year or so later, we now remember the interminable bus trip and little else). Sometimes I check my reaction by asking students at MPOW what they think (there's a great group of readers I can led ARCs to when I'm puzzled); it's rare that we have wildly divergent opinions.

Maybe that means that I'm not a good reader. Certainly I'd fail as a reader in the way the English teachers would like for me to read: I don't care about most of the elements that they want students to find and analyze. "Close" reading is beyond me. And maybe that's a good thing given the books I read.

I dunno. What do you think, reading peeps?


Don't yell at me!

I'm not talking to you, gentle reader, but to authors. Two authors specifically, but others have also crossed the line. What line? The line between writing and yelling, between forcefully making a point and polemic that hurts to read.

During my recent Winter Break, I read Doctorow's Little Brother and then recommended it to Thing Two. His feeling was that the points being made (about security and privacy) were being made Forcefully, and that perhaps he (being almost exactlly my advanced age) was not the intended audience. That ties in to my reading of the book: its hyperbolic stance on privacy and the overreaching of government agencies in the name of security are intended for a younger audience, and one that is less well-informed about what's going on in the world today. Goading readers into being informed and involved does not always make for a good read.

The other book was Lionel Shriver's So Much For That, which I actaully could not finish. The characters appeared to exist only to advance his cause (the inequities of the health care system), with diseases and problems so intense that they couldn't possibly have been created for another reason. There was no moderation here, no character that made me, the reader, feel that I was seeing the action through their eyes. Instead, the constant lectures made me run as fast as possible to another, calmer read.

I'm not saying that having a cause, or that the need to inform/cajole is a bad thing when writing. But to me, the best books are those that don't make that their only raison d'etre. Those books that do owe their lives to a cause don't feel organic, they feel forced. The characters are there to serve the cause - rarely living in my mind as I'm reading.

So please, authors, if there's something that you desperately need to convey to your readers, consider waiting until a story happens; hammering a square character into a round plot just leads to dead trees and weary readers.


Notable Quotes

Most people want to connect with authentic people. People they can be themselves with. Not people they feel they need to compete with.

We run ourselves down trying to keep up with our image. When the image is just a mirage anyway. And our bodies become weary, our souls dry until there is even less of our real selves.

Soon only the image remains.


Notable Quotes

The margins of a book can be well trodden pathways, where there is always the chance if an unexpected meeting


Year End Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3773 books left to read, I've got 3581 more books enjoy. 319 of them are sitting on Mt. Bookpile as I type!

What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2009 reading analysis (2008 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2009: 192 (180)
best month: March - 35
worst month: September - 7
average read per month: 16 (15)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 17 (6)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 51 (65)
mystery as percentage of total: 5 (13)
Advance Readers Copies: 115
books read that were published in 2009: 140
books that will be published in 2010: 10

Five star reviews: 12
One star reviews: 10

192 books... Never thought I'd top last year's 180, but, well, I did (yay me)! What will 2010 bring? Fewer, I suspect. Of course, my goal of eroding Mt. Bookpile down past 300 was not met. No, sadly, I added 185 books, so there was a net loss of 8; at this rate, I'll level Mt. Bookpile in, oh, 2040.

Other reading/book round-ups:
Asking the Wrong Questions
So Many Books
Core Collections
The Guardian (two articles!)
Hey Lady, Whatcha Reading?
Bookgirl's Nightstand
Bookshelves of Doom

And many, many links at Semicolon


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Another mild quarter: 44 books read. All reviews over on Killin' Time Reading.

  • Finding My Place; Traci L. Jones
  • Lit; Mary Karr
  • Under a Red Sky; Haya Leah Molnar
  • Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda; Omar Nasiri
  • I'm Down; Mishna Wolff
Children's/Young Adult
  • Candor; Pam Bachorz
  • The Time Pirate; Ted Bell
  • Stealing Death; Janet Lee Carey
  • School of Fear; Gitty Daneshvari
  • The Magicians; Lev Grossman
  • The Thirteen Treasures; Michelle Harrison
  • Freaks and Revelations; Davida Wills Hurwin
  • Fallen; Lauren Kate
  • The Faceless Ones; Derek Landy
  • Birthmarked; Caragh M. O'Brien
  • Witch and Wizard; James Patterson
  • The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To; DC Pierson
  • The Book of Samuel; Erik Raschke
  • Keeping Corner; Kashmira Sheth
  • The Rescuers/Miss Bianca/The Turret; Margery Sharp
  • When You Reach Me; Rebecca Stead
  • Kiss; Jacqueline Wilson
  • Everything Asian; Sun J. Woo
  • War Dances; Sherman Alexie
  • The Dower House; Annabel Davis-Goff
  • Little Brother; Cory Doctorow
  • So Much for That; Lionel Shriver
  • An Irish Country Doctor; Patrick Taylor
  • The Way We Were; Marcia Willett
  • The Chosen One; Carol Lynch Williams
  • The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire; Trisha Telep
  • The Brutal Telling, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder and Still Life; Louise Penny
  • Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes; Theo Aronson
  • Walking Chicago; Ryan Ver Berkmoes
  • Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online; Anastasia Goodstein
  • Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend; Irene S. Levine
  • American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work; Nick Taylor
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Nation and Unseen Academicals; Terry Pratchett
  • Things We Didn't See Coming; Steven Amsterdam