Friday, January 08, 2010

Books I will hate

by Lauren

Yesterday, Jessica discussed Laura Miller’s book on CS Lewis, and today I bring you more of her wisdom, this time from Salon. Earlier this week, Miller recommended we all try something new in 2010: read a book we think we won’t like. I’ll admit that while I’ve grown much more open since I began working in publishing, with my personal reading, I invariably leap for the same sorts of books I’ve always loved. My “free time” reading piles at home have the same general character as the ones that were in my college dorm rooms. When taking the luxury of reading purely for my own enjoyment, I rarely think it’s worth reading trying something I’m not naturally excited about. But I know from my professional experience that sometimes wonderful books are hiding in categories we hesitate to touch or under plots that seem at first glance unappealing.

I’m not generally one for New Year’s resolutions (as it’s universally acknowledged that those are merely things we pretend we’re going to do or else we’d have begun them when we decided they were important rather than arbitrarily on January 1st…er, 7th…oh, by early February at the latest), but I’ll take Miller’s suggestion on in 2010: I will read, for my personal reading, at least one book I’m convinced I will hate.

Since I’m the naturally contrary sort, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something wonderful that I’d normally shove aside. And hey, if I do hate it, I might’ve wasted my time, but I’ll also feel totally vindicated.

Is anyone else prepared to take on this challenge? And does anyone have ground rules about what’s unreadable as delightful and random as Miller’s? If anyone has a graphic novel about 20-something magicians living on a ranch in Prague while working in the silent movie business and feeling disenchanted with their relationships with rabbis, they may want to suggest their publicist steer clear of Miller’s desk at review time. (But they should probably send that manuscript to me, because I bet it’s amazing!)


  1. If you're a library thing member, they have a very useful little tool for this sort of thing called the unsuggester. It looks at the books you've included in your library, the ratings you've given them, and from that predicts the books that you will be least likely to read or enjoy.

    Whenever I run it my list tends to be full of Christian inspiration titles (my penchant for fantasy novels is probably the reason), and since I'm also extremely contrary I've strongly considered picking one up and seeing if I can't prove the algorithm wrong. You might want to try this out yourself. At the very least it might introduce you to some genres you never knew existed.

  2. That story does sound amazing! lol. I have already started this challenge. The more I read, even the genres that wouldn't normally appeal to me, the better writer I will be. So bring on the books! Good and bad, they all have something to teach.
    My blog

  3. Late to the Narnia discussion: I was/am Christian, but as a kid, all the allegory in the Narnia books went right over even my head except for the Jesus-Aslan connection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I've always been interested in religion, and even majored in it in college, but re-reading those books as an adult was definitely a different experience for me, and I picked up on so many themes to which I was oblivious as a child. I think that would be a universal experience for anyone who read the books as a kid and then an adult, no matter their religious persuasion.

    I did this last year because I realized that I was heading down a path toward only reading SF and fantasy titles, since those are the genres I like to write. It was totally worth it, and made me (re-)expand my preferred reading genres. I would highly recommend that exercise.

    I'm not on Library Thing, but now I'm even more interested in joining just to check out this unsuggester tool mentioned above.

  4. There are a few books I thought I'd love, but hated. So I guess the same logic applies with books I think I'll hate.

  5. I already started this when I bought a book for my Dad for Father's day, in a genre that I would never choose. Since it was written by a celebrity I really admired on the stage, I had to see how good he was on the page. It was really good, and I enjoyed it. Since then I have read quite a few that I normally would not even pick up, in general I have been pleasantly surprised. However if I really don't like a book I won't finish it.

  6. This is a challenge I really should participate in. I'm very picky about how I spend my precious free time and for the last few years I will only read crime/thrillers written by men (I kinda got fed up with the romance that women crime writers usually put in their books).
    I've been telling myself for ages to widen my reading horizons so this could be the perfect opportunity for me.
    Unfortunately, I still feel a tad resistant so I might have to do a bit of self convincing that it's a good idea. :o)

  7. Are you talking about fiction only? or non-fiction too - because i don't think i could do it if i had to read a history on something...

  8. I've been doing this for a long time, ever since I moved to a country where books in English were hard to find and expensive; you can't be picky when reading material is scarce. I started reading things I'd never have touched before: WWII memoirs, natural history, adventure stories for men, fiction for boys. I found a lot of great new stuff this way -- and a lot of crap too.

  9. May I make a few suggestions that surprised me. Some, I discovered with my tween-age children; others I found along the way, browsing and researching for a story about a summer island.

    Swallows and Amazons - a handful of kids exploring a necklace of tiny islands near their summer cottages

    The Wilderness Family by Kobe Kruger - a young family moves to a magnificent--but remote- ranger station in South Africa's largest national park.

    The Stations of Still Creek by Barbara J. Scot; and My World is an Island - Elizabeth Ogilvie; which introduced me to a genre I'd never been interested in: Personal Memoir; inspiring me to write my own.

  10. I read books I think I will hate all the time--little girl chapter books to my daughter at bedtime. And you know what? I almost hate them all, but she loves them so I press on. And I've learned it's possible to read aloud and not pay attention to your own voice.

  11. That's a brilliant idea! But I think the key will be seeking out something I think I'll hate, rather than just find boring.

  12. michael gavaghen9/1/10 3:21 PM

    All right, count me in. There is a novel called "Tan Lines" by JJ Salem, which has one of the best opening lines I've read in years:

    "There are eight thousand nerve endings in the clitoris, and this son of a bitch couldn't find any of them."

    The book is blurbed by Jackie Collins and Cindy Adams (gossip columnist from the New York Post, God help us). Elle magazine calls it "sexy beach trash of the highest order."

    Since I live near a beach but haven't read sexy beach trash of ANY order, I figure this one is a natural.

  13. Ugh...I spent plenty of time in college reading things I didn't love. That's not something I want to purposely do again.

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