Reading is like Eating...

Friday, June 4, 2010

...at least for me, but I suspect for all of us. After all, reading provides our brains nourishment. Reading any kind of book is better than nothing at all, though some books are better for our brains than others. And even when we're eating healthy, it's always nice to mix it up with some ice cream or chips every now and then. And some people can eat all the marshmallow fluff they want and still have the perfect body (or read "fluff" but are incredibly intelligent... maybe it's what they need to "Take Me Away"... haha, just had to put that in there). What led me to this thinking was what I've noticed about my ever evolving reading taste. And while I hated vegetables when I was young, I now eat them more often and crave them at times, lol! So what do you think? Is this a fair comparison?

Here's what led me to my musings:

Whether it was a fellow blogger or an author or publicist I met at BEA, one of the first questions they asked was “what type of books do you review?” My typical response was to laugh somewhat and explain that “according to my blog” I enjoy reading contemporary women’s fiction and mystery/thriller the best but that, in reality, I read a large variety of books; therefore, my reviews tend to be a very eclectic mix of genres. I’ve deliberated this in my head for a while (even before BEA) because lately I’ve found myself drawn more often to other genres (though similar) in place of these two. Is it just that the books I have the opportunity to review are different so it’s a coincidence? Or is it that my reading tastes are continually evolving?

Although I’ve always thought of myself as the same type of reader over the years, I have changed in what I enjoy or am drawn to the most. I was a typical young girl reader – anything in the Babysitter’s Club series or Sweet Valley Twins (and later Sweet Valley High) or similar books with girls my age drew my interest. (In fact, I am still searching for a series about 4 girls who wrote each other letters… the chapters were from different points of view and were designed with that girl’s stationary and her own font…) I enjoyed many books from the Apple imprint of Scholastic. (Actually, pretty much anything I could find at the Scholastic book fair). I loved the Ramona books and Superfudge. However, I detested anything with paranormal or sci-fi elements and feel like I’m the only one who did not like A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, anything that I was encouraged to read in school probably bored me, even if I enjoyed it at a later time. I did not enjoy books that took place with animals in the wild (hated having to read Julie of the Wolves) and had no desire to read Call of the Wild. This must be where my love of contemporary “women’s” fiction started; I just wanted to read about girls like me. (Okay, one exception… My Father’s Dragon… LOVED that book!!)

As I grew older, I turned to “horror” books and loved anything written by R.L. Stine for his Fear Street series. My favorite series was The Cheerleaders: The First Evil, The Second Evil, and The Third Evil… and then The New Evil. In fact, I may still have these somewhere, lol. And there was a special edition one called Silent Night that I loved. Around this time I also read R.L. Stine’s younger series, Goosebumps, even though I considered them “juvenile”, haha. I’m not completely sure when the next transition took place, but the next set of books I remember reading were both by Stephen King: Carrie and Cujo. (Those remain the only King books I’ve read). And in high school I read some Alice Hoffman, Anna Quindlen, started Nicholas Sparks, some early “Oprah Book Club” books, etc. I have to note that as much as a bookworm as I am, my reading in junior high and high school (and even most of college) was fairly sporadic and infrequent. In fact, my reading didn’t start picking back up until 2005 when I graduated from college. That’s also when I started keeping track of how many books I read; in 2005 I read a total of 5 books! In 2006 it jumped to 13, and then in 2007 I read 75!

In college I started reading a lot of chic lit. I adored the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella (well, at the time it was just the first book), and I fell in love with Jane Green's Jemima J (and recommended it to everyone). I enjoyed those for a couple years but then transitioned out of them and now turn to them mainly when I need a lighter or "happier" read. Although I still agree that some of the books in this genre are not as light as some of their counterparts and are extremely well written. This transition led to regular women's fiction. Mystery/thrillers have notoriously been quick, fun reads for me as well.

That brings us to now (finally, right? if you even read this far, haha). I've found my tastes turning more literary. Not so much in that I crave classic liteterary authors or the like; but I enjoy more atmosphere in books, well developed characters, and superb writing. I feel sort of hypocritical being so particular about writing skill since I've started dabbling in writing and I can't seem to climb out of the well of telling the story intead of showing. But back to the point, I find myself frustrated when a novel lacks these elements. I still love contemporary women's fiction and mystery/thrillers but I veer more towards these specific things even in these novels. Another funny thing is I never used to be a fan of history, but I almost always love the historical fiction novels that I read.

Basically, this was just a long way of explaining how my reading taste has evolved over time. I think the thing that has stayed consistent over time is my need for variety. I refuse to be stuck to one type of genre. Sometimes I feel like some book blogs fare better when they focus on one genre. But like I explained to another person I spoke to at BEA, I review here what I want to read. And I like to read a variety of genres.

Have you found that you do this as well? Has your taste evolved over time? Do you stick to one genre? What do you gravitate towards most often?

14 comments:

Jennifer (Crazy-for-Books) said...

We have evolved in our reading tastes very similarly. I loved the SVH and Babysitters Club books, then in high school I started reading King, Koontz and John Saul, but I don't think I have read one of their books since then! I did not read much at all in college, but once I graduated, I joined the Harlequin Book Club and started reading romance voraciously for several years. I've also read the Oprah book picks and since joining Paperbackswap I have really opened my eyes to other genres. I love women's fiction and mystery and they remain my faves. I found it funny at BEA that when we were together and someone asked what we reviewed, we could basically speak for each other because we are very similar! Great post!

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

I totally agree my reading tastes have changed over time. I did christopher pike along with SVH. Then I did stephen King and chick lit. For while I did adult novels but since reading twilight I was brought back to young adult. I like a wide variety of tastes. I like a mystery, along with paranormal. Great post.

Jenny said...

Jen -- Haha, Jen, I wouldn't expect that our reading tastes were that different growing up either lol! I never had a Harlequin phase though which is probably the only difference. I did read one book from their Next series and liked it, but that was it, haha. I thought that was so funny too at BEA!!

Julie -- It seems like lots of us have had King phases and chic lit, haha! I like some young adult too but there are sooo many for me to keep up with! I never really cared for a lot of paranormal but have even found myself reading those more lately.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Oh wow yeah I agree. My taste has totally evolved with me.

Some I've outgrown and some I've just begun to explore.

Great post.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I'm a different generation from you, Jenny, so that probably explains why I didn't sample the same books that you did as a child. Actually, the first book I checked out of a library (at 8) was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Then I loved Little Women, etc., plus Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

There were some other teen books I enjoyed in junior high, but can't even remember the names of them. I know I haven't seen them around for many years, though. Then there were books about a student nurse and her adventures.

Mystery was my favorite, followed by classics; much later, I focused in on what I call books about social issues, cloaked as women's fiction (in other words, Jodi Picoult and Elizabeth Berg).

Yes, now I'll try things out of my comfort zone because others on blogs are reading them. But I'm still not attracted to vampires or paranormal books.

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

I love this post. I've been wanting to do something similar for awhile.

I think our reading tasters change because we are constantly evolving. Infind mine can change dramatically from year to year.

BTW, 2005 was when I started keeping track of my book, too. Must be a post-college thing to do.

christina said...

I think that this is a great post! I love seeing/reading about others transitions since I know mine has changed so much. This post, among others, has inspired me to write up one of my own. Eventually. Haha.

Tina's Blog said...

My tastes have also evolved over time. I, too, read the Babysitters Club series -and the Girls of Canby Hall series by Scholastic. In high school I tried to read some classics, but also read all of Danielle Steele's books. Now I read more women's fiction/realistic fiction/mystery (mostly in a series) and I don't have quite as much desire to read mindless chick lit. I have always liked biography/memoir and have really enjoyed how many memoirs are being published each year.

Trisha said...

I truly believe that reading a wide variety of texts is the best way to 1) stay interested in reading and 2) learn about the world. And reading is like eating...I do too much of both! :)

Melissa said...

Great post, Jenny! I also read Babysitter's club, and Sweet Valley High, but then I went through my Harlequin phase while in High School. The Harlequin phase was because the lady my mom worked with would give her boxes and boxes of Harlequins. I then went into the Stephen King, Jacqueline Briskin, and Jackie Collins phase. After that it was chick lit, and nothing but chick lit! I think I got burned out by it though, because I can rarely find one that keeps me interested now. I also don't have a particular favorite genre, I read whatever sounds interesting. I love the analogy..I love my veggies now!

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

Terrific post! My tastes have definitely evolved. In my teens, I was heavily into historical fiction. Right out of college I stuck mostly with contemporary fiction and classics. Later I got heavily into mysteries, then back to classics. It kind of ebbs and flows.

Zibilee said...

I also have tastes that have evolved over time. Where I used to once be stuck in the contemporary fiction box, now I try to read a bit from every genre and have found that I really enjoy non-fiction, history, and historical fiction. I think as time goes on I will probably become a little more well rounded in my reading, and hopefully that will mean that I find a place for science fiction and fantasy as well!

Jennifer said...

My taste has definitely evolved over time. As a child, I didn't even like to read. Crazy to believe but so true. My mother would force me to read for so many hours. Eventually, something clicked and i started actually enjoying my reading time. The Borrowers series sticks out as a favorite of mine. But now, I like a variety of genres. I admit, I do have my favorites. I totally relate to your desire to read about women like you, but I also like reading as a form of escape. So I travel into different worlds: historical fiction, memoir, sometimes even science fiction. And I like to think that I will give almost anything a try. Doesn't guarantee I'll like it or even finish it ... just like eating.

Jennifer @ www.justicejennifer.com

Allie said...

Okay, wow, deja vu here! I just came across that image of the color coordinated bookshelves when I was looking for ways to redecorate my apartment when we move in Sept, and wanted a fun way to incorporate bookshelves into the design. Love them - they look so nice and pretty! I definitely have enough books in various color bindings to make that motif work!

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