Monday, March 9, 2015

My Reading Tastes & Experiences

Back in December, when my book club was getting gifts for each other for the holidays, one of the members said something like, "You were the only one who chose literary type books for your list!"

For the record, my list was:

"1. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
2. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
3. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Already read, but gave my copy to a friend, and basically I've just had it on my list to repurchase at some point).
4. The Book of Sand & Shakespeare's Memory by Jorge Luis Borges
5. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

If people find those too weird, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Earth Girl by Janet Edwards."

But she was not wrong. My reading tastes are... dissimilar to most bloggers, it seems.

I think the first way in which I feel kind of different from most YA bloggers is that I don't fangirl.

When I love a book, I'll post about it a few times. In round-ups, books to anticipate sort of lists. But when I think of fangirling, I think of... how to explain? SO MUCH EXCITEMENT (polandbananabooks, aka Christine, is awesome to watch & one of the first people I would think of). I do use all caps but then I'll record a video and I'll still sound like me, lower case. I don't think I'm really explaining what fangirling means to me very well, but examples of this remind me of the Throne of Glass fandom and the Lunar Chronicles fandom. I really like both books and series, but I'm not in love with them in the way of many other bloggers. Can I pinpoint a specific thing that separates my love for those books and my LOVE for the Queen's Thief series?

I don't know. But I also think that it's me and my personality too. I'm a pretty happy and easy to amuse person. My baseline is pretty happy. It would probably take A LOT for me to make me uber happy and fangirl in the way of Christine (my almost name-twin). That's not a bad thing - for either of us. Just a thing. And I might not have explained that well either *wrings hands*.

And anyway, this feeds into what books I choose to read. There are some books that are fairly popular in the blogosphere. These I avoid. The more popular a book, the more I kind of want to avoid it. It's not just the hype, it's that I've grown to distrust popularity as a reason to read a book. I know people will want to shame you -- oh, I can't believe you haven't read X and X yet -- and I'll say the same thing, but on a sliding scale of factors that are most important to me, reading the books that everyone else has ranks really, really low. More and more often I feel like there are so many books out there that I've missed out on because I've only been blogging since 2011 and YA books have been around for MANY more years, of course.

But the thing that makes me feel the weirdest as a blogger is how well my tastes align with Kirkus Reviews. When Sam of Realm of Fiction used to blog, we'd have pretty similar tastes. Maybe 75%? I think that sometimes our scale of how much we liked / disliked elements differed - so while I really liked The Bone Season, she was more middling about it. But Sam stopped blogging, and I no longer had her to compare books with. And I began to rely a lot on Kirkus, and buy more "literary" books.

It's really strange for a blogger to flat out admit to trusting a literary journal's perspective (and a little disturbing, given what Malinda Lo highlighted about literary book reviews and diverse books; I sincerely hope those assumptions have not factored into my choice of books). I've seen many bloggers say that they don't understand why a book is so loved in literary journals. Often the books that get the most stars are the ones with the lowest ratings on Goodreads.

But, I don't always agree with them. Take the Made You Up review. Whoever reviewed MYU read it on a very surface level, in my opinion. I loved that book and the criticisms in that review made me really dumbfounded - like what and how did this happen? So about 90% of the time, I might agree with KR. Take the review for My Life Next Door. With that review I knew exactly what I was getting when I bought the book and I liked it just for that. It's always a combination of reading the Kirkus review, the synopsis for the book, an excerpt of the writing style, and sometimes other blogger reviews. But it always makes me feel a little guilty to look at Kirkus, because they're known to be the harshest literary journal and writers frequently complain about their Kirkus review. And thinking of the way I choose my books and what few bloggerly things I do (another post for another day) makes me feel less and less like a "true" blogger. Sometimes thinking about my reading tastes and how I choose what books to read makes me wonder whether my reviews are actually even helpful to the majority of the community. Would a teen even care about literary reviews?

Have you ever had moments when your reading tastes and experiences feel so different from the community's that you start to doubt yourself? How do you choose which books you read? Have you ever relied on literary journals or thought that your reading tastes were strange?


  1. I can relate to you on this! My tastes have begun to differ in the 2 years since I've started blogging and I've been distancing myself from over-hyped books. I don't like the pressure that comes with popular books and the shaming when people hear you haven't read it yet. I know they mean well but it just makes me stray away from it more because the over-saturation can get too much for me and it starts to annoy me. I'm not much of a fangirl either when it comes to books. I find it extremely difficult to fangirl over a book for some strange reason, it happens sometimes but not often.

    I've also started to lean towards more literary fic! I'm beginning to be a bit tired of some of the common themes in YA and as much as I love YA I also appreciate some novelty and literary fic offers that.

    I've been on a book buying ban for ages and even a library ban because I really need to tackle my TBR so that's how I've been deciding how I read and I need to read the earcs I download too. I generally don't rely on literary journals because I don't really trust them. There are not many reviewers that I do trust because of differing tastes so you can say I'm a bit picky about that. I have felt a little disconnected because I don't feel the same way about particular books as others but there's really nothing I can do about it. For reading, I'm not very bothered about the opinions of others but just that I'm enjoying what I'm reading.

    (I guess the long comments are back? Haha!)

  2. I think part of the problem of overhype is you don't get surprised much anymore. Before I was reading blogs (and even before Goodreads and Amazon), I loved just browsing a bookstore, picking up a book, reading the jacket or back, not knowing anything about it other than that, and reading it. Now, that never happens. I know SO MUCH about a book before I start reading, and sometimes I wonder if that is a good thing. Does that make sense? It's not entirely on point with what you're saying, but your post made me think of this.

    And even if you love a book, when you read other people absolutely gushing about it, it makes you feel like you didn't love it as much.

    But basically, you should just read what you want to read. And if you're reading different books, that's actually a positive thing when it comes to blogs, right?? ~Pam

  3. I blame blogging on this too. Ask me to write this post four years ago when I started blogging and I would've laughed. The over-hyped books would've been my sustenance and I would've def fallen into the pressure that you're referring to with happiness. I might've also been better at fangirling.

    :D :D we should compare books then if we're finding such similar tastes! One recent literary esque book I read was Shadow Scale, if you haven't gotten in Seraphina / want to read high fantasy :).

    Ah, I should go on a library ban, or just use the library to help tackle the TBR. I don't trust most literary journals - only Kirkus, actually. And even Kirkus has its flaws. Like their review of Ember in the Ashes was ridiculous. I can't believe they criticized the inclusion of Arabic elements when those were crucial to the story o.O. Being picky though has its advantages for the two of us - at least we will be tackling the TBR!

    AND YAY LONG COMMENTS ARE THE BEST I CAN'T WAIT TO VISIT YOUR BLOG. I'm so jetlagged right now I can't bring myself to go visit blogs until I'm properly enthusiastic and not so whoooooo~~~ about everything.

  4. YES. Agreed. I think that a lot of the overhyped books are the ones that fall into similar traps and the surprise/novelty is gone. "I know SO MUCH about a book before I start reading, and sometimes I wonder if that is a good thing." -- I do know what you mean. This is why I've started to try and actively look at older books. Instead of reading the jacket or back, I do that and an excerpt. I'm less likely to know a lot about books published in 2011/12 or earlier than I am about recent books. And there are a LOT of good books that were published earlier, like the Queen's Thief series. Knowing a lot about recent books creates expectations and when expectations aren't met, it's as you said, you're not surprised. You're more disappointed, and maybe you won't be like the others gushing about the book. " And if you're reading different books, that's actually a positive thing when it comes to blogs, right??" -- this too! Older books could still use promoters :)

  5. I totally get what you mean. I love a lot of books, but I don't fangirl out loud like some other bloggers. I sometimes see people scream on Twitter with all the caps & they talk about certain books all the time and whenever they read something else they make parallels to their favorite book. It's like their whole world resolves around that specific book.

    I'm not like that either. I can love something deeply, but I don't feel I need to shout it out like that. I'm more.. reserved, I guess? Like you, I will write about it, I might use some caps on the blog and some gifs, I try to make other people read it and I will refer to it every now and then.. but I don't consider myself a raving fangirl most of the times. I like how you stay like yourself in your videos when you talk about a book you really like :)

    I don't feel different from the community and I actually wouldn't care if that's the case. We all read the books we love to read, so keep doing that. I love that you sometimes review other books, because it gives me new recommendations. I pick my books from Goodreads, mostly based on the blurb and a quick look at most ratings.

  6. Yeah, I wish I were into fangirling more. It makes me feel sad because I think I might've been a few years back, but I wonder if blogging dulled the enthusiasm? :(

    Or, I guess it's as you said, and we're both reserved. Thanks about my videos!

    "Like you, I will write about it, I might use some caps on the blog and some gifs, I try to make other people read it and I will refer to it every now and then.. but I don't consider myself a raving fangirl most of the times. " -- Good description.

    :) I love that you're never embarrassed by what you read or any difference that someone like myself might perceive and you might relate to.


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