Let’s Talk About: Reading Deeply vs. Widely

I’m sure this doesn’t cast a wide enough net to catch every reader, but I have a working theory that there are basically two types of readers.

There are readers who read deeply and there are those who read widely.

Deep Readers are the readers who read everything an author has ever written. While they may not always read a variety of genres they will make the exception for select favorite authors. These readers will stick out a middling book waiting for the series to return to its previous glory and will follow an author’s oeuvre despite bumps in the road.

Wide Readers are readers who look to a variety of authors and genres to find books. Sometimes they will finish a series or read multiple books by an author. But just as often they will read one to see what the buzz is about and move on. While there is still room for favorite series and even authors, these readers are much quicker to walk away when a series/author’s work becomes frustrating or dull.

In tracking my reading habits more closely here on the blog, I know that I am a Wide Reader. It is rare that I will have read every book in a series but if you ask me about the first book the odds are good I’ll have an opinion. Similarly I might not read every book by a bestselling author but chances are high I’ll have read at least one or read some reviews on it.

In trying to work through some of my owned books to read I have been finishing more series as I get to sequels but generally I am okay with walking away from a series in the middle. I also have a very select few authors from whom I will read anything they publish (middle grade is still an exception to this and a weak spot, but who knows. That might change.)

So tell me: Do my reading types seem accurate? Do you read deeply or widely?

Let’s talk about it in the comments!

 

Let’s Talk About Dust Jackets

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about books and how I treat them as I read them.

If I am reading a hardcover I remove the dust jacket to read the book. If I have the option I do not buy books with damaged dust jackets. I want my book to look pristine. I check under the dust jacket to see what publishers did to the front and back boards as well as the spine.

(I also do not dogear pages. I don’t even crack the spines for paperbacks. If I am reading a paperback/arc it usually goes into a plastic bag before it goes into my purse.)

That said, the hardcover usually gets tossed into my bag and sometimes gets smudges or discoloration on it (Loop it turns out is a white book and now has a grey blotch on the back cover). If the book is black or another dark color I usually end up with stained fingers.

Recently it occurred to me that some people actually use the dust jacket to protect the book or leave it on when they are reading. If I receive a copy that’s already a little worse for wear, that’s okay. I’ll keep it. If it’s special to me I won’t “upgrade” to a new one (see my mismatched copy of Megan Whalen Turner books comprised of discared library copies and a used arc).

But if I get a book in new condition I want it to stay that way. Especially the dust jacket.

What about you? Do you read with the jacket on or off? Do you treat your books carefully? How do you carry books in your bag? (This last one is especially of interest to me as I feel like there has to be a better way than my totally busted used shopping bag strategy.)

Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Let’s Talk About: Reading Habits (Especially with Series!)

A few weeks ago two of my coworkers who I am going to call “Forrest” and “Thor” (because this is my blog and I do what I want) were talking about reading different science fiction series. Forrest was surprised that Thor hadn’t read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books because they are totally his speed.

I joined the conversation late and seconded Forrest’s assessment. That’s when something interesting happened that got me thinking. Forrest asked if I had read the series. I said I had read the first one and never gotten invested enough to continue the series. Forrest expressed no surprise at that and said something along the lines of “You read everything.”

Anyway, that got me thinking more generally about reading habits.

I read widely. Not always in a variety of genres (I don’t enjoy thrillers and I don’t enjoy pure romances–such is life) but I do try to cover a variety of authors. If you check my review index by author you can see pretty quickly that a lot of the authors only have one or two book by their names.

What does that mean exactly?

Aside from reading widely, I tend to be pretty ruthless. I walk away from books I am not enjoying by the 50-100 page mark. I walk away from authors after three unsatisfying books by them. I cut books from my to read list constantly. I do not finish every series I start.

That last one and the thoughts from my coworker are what really got me thinking. I’ve seen a lot of people say that they are “bad” series readers. Many new years resolutions among bloggers have included plans to finish more series (serieses?).

I never feel remorse about leaving a series. Sometimes I will feel regret and wish that the series had continued to enthrall me, but most times I am okay considering the first book a standalone. In fact, if the first book does not function as a standalone that is an immediate strike against it because I do not like being manipulated or teased by my books.

So what is the difference that pushes a series into that “must finish” category? I’m much more likely to read a series I started from the beginning (ie a series I follow the pub schedule with). Loving the first book is also an obvious factor.

Beyond that I’m not sure what makes the difference. I know I am less likely to start a series if I know it’s going to be more than 4 books. There are exceptions but not often. I also generally read more fantasy series than I do contemporary.

(This also doesn’t address the marketing machine aspect of supporting books by buying a series of course but if you want to talk about that too, go for it.)

So let’s talk:

  • What kind of series reader are you?
  • What are some factors that guarantee you will finish a series?
  • What are some book series that you read and loved or are currently working on?

Let’s Talk about giving authors a second (or third) chance

I try to keep my “to be read” list locked down and part of that is being really strict about what I add. It has to be a book I really want to read and one I really think I’ll get to. I don’t add later books in a series until I’ve read and liked the first. More importantly, if I dislike a book by an author, I cut my losses.

Generally this involves a two-or-three strike policy; I’ll try two books by an author and if I dislike them both I move on with my life. If two of the books are part of the same series I will give three chances. (Unless it’s a book I really dislike for whatever reason, then it’s often a one-strike policy.)

I am starting to re-evaluate this strategy.

I had already read and not totally loved two books by White. One book wasn’t what I wanted it to be and the other just wasn’t a personally satisfying read. It happens. I assumed that, although White’s books always sound great and are often go-to recommendations that I give other readers, her writing style just didn’t work for me as a reader.

Then something interesting happened. I read White’s story “Welcome to Christmas, CA” in My True Love Gave to Me and I adored it. I literally cried while reading this story because it was so touching and beautiful and perfect.

Then I started hearing about Illusions of Fate on goodreads and I was totally enchanted by the premise and the cover. Then other bloggers I trust started telling me it was really good. So I decided to read it. And it was everything I hoped for and more. For most of the time while I was reading, I couldn’t stop smiling. I began recommending it to people while I was still reading it.

I’ll talk more about why I loved the book in my review. Here I wanted to talk about the fact that I took a chance on this book and it totally paid off.

Now this could mean my tastes have changed. It could mean that White’s writing style has changed. Or it could mean that my reading tastes have a lot to do with plot and premises that I find appealing.

What does that mean about my two-strike policy? Have I missed other books by authors I wasn’t sure about but might ultimately love? There’s no way to know and since I am so strict with my TBR I won’t be going back to re-evaluate all of the authors I’ve elected to skip. But perhaps like all good rules my reading policy might sometimes be made to be broken.

So let’s talk about giving authors a second chance in the comments. At what point do YOU cut your losses with a certain author or series?

Let’s talk about book baggage (figurative not literal)

I’ve been thinking about books I didn’t enjoy. In particular two books I read last winter come to mind. (And I’m going to have spoilers below so if you see the book title and know you want to read it just skip the next paragraph.)

One book I know I didn’t enjoy because of personal hangups. Golden by Jessi Kirby is about a lot of things but the thing that felt most weighty to me was the fact that the main character was applying for a huge full-ride scholarship to a very expensive college. And she proceeded to sabotage herself at every turn up to and including the moment when she walks out of the big scholarship speech competition. At which point I was done with the book. I have no patience for certain things in books (one is reckless driving) and I was furious watching the heroine throw away this opportunity. Now, other people loved this book. And that’s fine. But as someone who struggled and worked really hard to get scholarships for college and grad school, I just couldn’t identify with the main character here at all.

The other book was Wither by Lauren DeStefano. I actually really enjoyed this book. But I read a good chunk of it while my mother was having her brain surgery for twelve hours last year. I finished the book after the surgery while I was commuting to and from the hospital and work. But every time I think about it now I get a horrible feeling which I recently realized stems from bad associations that have nothing to do with the book. I liked the book as much as I could in those circumstances. And I like the author. But I’ve been hesitant to continue the series because I don’t really want to go to that emotional place again.

Which brings me to the crux of this discussion post (which I’m calling Let’s Talk): How do you separate your own personal baggage from a book? Or is it something that does have to be separated? Do you think these kind of hang ups have to be disclosed or is the subjective nature of book recommending and reviewing implied?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

In which I have thoughts about steampunk as a genre.

I love Steampunk. There is something very appealing about the steampunk aesthetic that combines modern technology with very Victorian sensibilities. I like that the books have a historical feel without quite being historical but also fantasy elements without quite being that either.

You can browse my “steampunk” tag to see all of the related reviews and posts (there are some book lists and Linktastic! posts as well). Yesterday I reviewed Etiquette & Espionage which is my most recent steampunk read.

Keeping in mind my deep and abiding love for the genre in general and the Leviathan series in particular, I’ve noticed something.

Steampunk books usually involve an English setting and in order to get in the right head-space, the narrative also involves a certain tone–you know, an English/Victorian tone. (It sounds made up but, trust me, if you read enough steampunk books you will see it.)

The problem I’ve noticed is that in adoption that tone and talking about those things that are inherent to steampunk (the clothes, the manners, the steam-powered inventions) it feels like a lot of steampunk books also become somehow flippant. Not that the writing is low quality or that anything about the book is cut-rate. It just feels, sometimes, like because the book is genre fiction (sub-genre fiction really since steampunk is so specific) that it isn’t allowed to take itself seriously. Instead of a deadpan (as it were) presentation of events we get a tongue-in-cheek kind of story.

Then I consider the fact that I didn’t notice that flippancy in Leviathan or its sequels. Which brings to mind other gender issues. Does Leviathan come across as more serious because it’s written by a male author? Does it come off that way because of a male protagonist? Does the focus on a military airship necessarily preclude elements that might create a flippant tone in other novels?

I don’t really have any answers here but it’s just something I noticed and wanted to talk about.

Do you ever think books don’t have permission to take themselves seriously? Does it matter? Is this all in my head?

Let’s talk it out in the comments!

Is all of this just in my head?