Friday, September 11, 2009

Why we put books down

From the comments in my recent post on books I couldn't finish, I am, first of all, glad that I am in good company. The consensus seems to be:

  • life is too short, we want to read books that mean something to us;
  • these books didn't live up to expectations that came with recommendations or reviews or other reasons that made us keen on reading them.
I wonder if we had picked up books without such expectations, would we have gone farther? But then of course, we'd have to assume that it is possible not to be affected by what we've heard about the books.

Before the days of accessible reviews, I used to browse libraries and bookstores and would pick up whatever book that looked interesting. I've come across quite a few books that I ended up liking a lot. Two books I remember are Child of My Heart by Alice Mc
Dermott and Dream Me Home Safely, edited by Susan Richards Shreve.

It was a great feeling, this discovering something for myself. Having said that, I've also had books that lived up to their high expectations: What Was Lost; Lovely Bones, Penderwicks.

On an aside, usually I watch movies with some idea of what they're about, except when I saw The Crying Game. Yes, I was one of the twelve people in America totally surprised by The Twist.

Anyway, back to books. How do expectations play in your reading? Do you have books that you discovered purely on your own and love? What about It Books that didn't disappoint? Do share.


Davin Malasarn said...

This is naive of me, but only recently did I understand that prominently displayed books were usually the result of money rather than anything else. Once I learned that, I started spending more time browsing the shelves for new stuff. One I discovered that I really liked was a book called The Sea by John Banville. It won the Man Booker prize, but I didn't know that until I was about halfway through the quirky book. I just liked it based on some random pages I read.

Books that lived up to their expectations: Lovely Bones, like you mentioned. I was also very impressed by Everything Is Illuminated. Those are two contemporary examples.

Yat-Yee said...

I know! I felt so silly when I found out. Thanks for the recommendations, Davin! I've not heard of The Sea.

tanita davis said...

Dude: I was the 13th. But then, I thought Boy George was a girl, growing up. I missed the whole point...

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

A book I loved that I discovered on my own is THE WOMAN WHO LOVED REINDEER by Meredith Ann Pierce.
An It Book that was talked up by many and fully met my expectations is THE HUNGER GAMES.
Good question.

Yat-Yee said...

Tanita: I jumped at the scene. But it was cool, in a way, to be surprised.

Tricia: Ooh, more recommendations. Hehehe my ploy is working! BTW , I love Hunger Games as well.

Cheryl Reif said...

I'll join your "surprised-by-the-crying-game" group. I had no idea! (Unlike everyone else who was watching with me, which made it especially funny...)

One big name that wowed me was THE BOOK THIEF. I kept hearing about it from friend after friend until I finally read the darned thing...and then I immediately went back and re-read passages. The writing in it is amazing. (HUNGER GAMES wowed me, too, btw.)

More often, I'm wowed by books I never heard about before picking them up: BREATHE MY NAME (R.A. Nelson), NEED (Carrie Jones), FEED (M.T. Anderson--altho maybe that's a book I should have heard about.) It's such a delight to discover unexpected book treasures!

Lady Glamis said...

I haven't seen The Crying Game. I'm sure I'd be surprised by the twist, hah. And I need to read The Lovely Bones, as well. I just need to read a lot of things. My six-month reading period's coming up soon...

Annie Louden said...

I loved the Time Traveler's Wife. I'm excited for her new book but also worried if it's not as good.

I picked up Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys and loved it. Also bought A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius b/c I loved the title, and it's a great book.