Ink Spill

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I was realizing the other day that I don’t just write random blog posts where I TALK. I always have a specific topic I’m talking about, or a review, or an ishness wrap-up post… I don’t just sit down and type with no idea where I’m going.

So this is just that. I’m going to type, and the topic may wander all over the place and it may be messy, but at least it will be different, and at least it will be whatever’s on my heart.

Firstly, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Because I am largely Irish. So there’s that. It may also be the only happy thing in this post, so cling to it.

I’m tired and I’m in a writing slump because I’m still suffering a hangover from NaNo and the Rooglewood contest. I’ve discovered I don’t do well with contests. They burn me out. I still intend to do NaNo in November, but other than that I need to write for me again.

Not to mention that I’m still trying not to spend long hours at my computer because of my hurt back. (I know, people will say that’s a hollow excuse. That I could use a pen. Well I do use a pen sometimes thank you very much, it just gets messy and I need to type it up soon after, otherwise it gets too tangled.)

22You may have seen some posts today around the blogosphere, by lovely people who are writers, about what real writers are. I feel oddly inspired and yelled at all at once. But mostly, overshadowing the inspiration is a large bout of depression. Or… I don’t know if it’s inspired. Maybe it’s defiance, which is not exactly inspiration; makes me want to write, not because I feel “oh, I’m inspired!” but to prove the doubts wrong because it sounds as if they’re saying YOU ARE NOT A WRITER BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND WORDS SINCE THE YEAR STARTED. AND BECAUSE YOU GET DISTRACTED BY DIFFERENT STORIES. YOU WILL NEVER BE A WRITER.

But the thing is, I don’t have to have all these posts telling me these things. Because I think them all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I think I’m not a writer, I worry, I feel guilty . . . it’s not pretty.

whimsyBecause I HAVEN’T written in awhile. Maybe that means I’m not a writer. Maybe it means I’m really burnt out because I’ve been trying to mold my writing around others’ expectations, which has never worked for me. I have to write what I have to write, and I’ve been trying to avoid that, with disastrous consequences. According to these posts, I don’t believe I’ll ever be a published author, and for those who are reading this and going “but this is a blog about writing, why are you blogging about writing if you’re not going to be an author?” I can only say that I’m tired of saying I’m a writer. Who knows anymore what that means. Everyone says they’re a writer. And they’re all probably right. Because they write. And I, apparently, DON’T.

Maybe I haven’t finished anything in awhile (short stories and novellas evidently don’t count) and maybe I’m distracted by “plot bunnies” and apparently that’s a sin, to have a lot of stories knocking at the door of my brain. And maybe I’ve been focusing too long on trying to put life before writing, because I feel guilty when I ignore my friends or my blog or my work and write instead.

I don’t give myself permission to write, and it’s burning me up because I haven’t written in so long and it’s making me an irritable, depressed person (or… more than usual) because these words inside me need to go somewhere and they haven’t been. These stories want out, all of them, and I’m failing them because I don’t have the discipline to sit down and do it, because my to-do list calls me away. I feel miserable when I don’t write, and I feel miserable when I DO write because I feel guilty for writing instead of doing what everyone else says I should do.

Because if there’s no published book at the end, then why should I be allowed to write? The world will look at me and go “Why are you writing if you aren’t trying to be published?” Well I don’t KNOW if I want to be published, or not; I’m still very confused on that end. All I know is I have stories that want me to tell them — that need me to tell them — and I’ve been abandoning them for human precepts about writing and not writing and I’ve been so burnt out and I just don’t know anymore.

88I’ve never considered myself a “writer” in the sense that many people seem to. I’ve always felt a little bit of an outsider, figuring they’re probably doing it right and that I must somehow not be a normal writer because I’m not like everyone else, somehow. I just write the stories that are in my head.

I don’t study books on “the craft” and I don’t write a certain amount every day — or even every day at all. I write in spurts, like a chapter in a day and then nothing for a week. I’ve tried to do it “by the book” — to write a little bit every day. It only burned me out and made me irritated at my story. I’ve tried to read craft books and posts on writing, on HOW YOU SHOULD WRITE OR ELSE YOU ARE NOT A WRITER, but they always leave a bad taste in my mouth because I feel like I’m being forced to do it someone else’s way, and the stories burning in my head won’t let me do that. They want to be told, and they don’t want to be told HOW to be told.

55The stories in my head are from the Tree of Story, which Tolkien talks about. They’re out there, and they want me to tell them. And no one else can, so I have to. And it’s not like I can just ignore them or make them what I want them to be, or what others say they should be. They’re THERE. Lots of people seem not to understand this.

I can’t be a writer in the way everyone says I should. I have to find my own way. Everyone will say that’s stubborn, but maybe I AM stubborn. They’ll say I’m not willing to put in the hard work to become an author, not willing to swallow my pride and learn what GOOD writing looks like and take criticism. Maybe those are true, I don’t know.

Apparently I’m not really a writer. I’m a storyteller. And I’m not going to apologize for it. I WANT to write. I do. And I will write. I’ve tried to stop, and I can’t — the stories come back and burn and I have to write them. But sometimes I do get burnt out, and the well is dry, and people will tell me that you have to write on even when you can’t, but sometimes you just CAN’T, okay?

All my life, writing’s the only thing that I feel is ME. I have stories to tell and they’re in my heart, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could turn that into something for my life. (That was what that sentimental post about “following your dream” was about. I don’t know if I believe it anymore.) But if I can’t do it by the world’s standards, then what about my life? If you take my writing away from me, or tell me I’m not a writer, or that my stories don’t matter, or that I’m not dedicated enough to write, then I have nothing. I am a storyholder, and without that story, that writing, I am nothing. “Get a life, then. Get a job. Get a hobby. SOMETHING. If a writer is all you are, but you’re not even that, then what good are you?” That’s a very good question. If I don’t become a published writer, then everyone will wonder what on earth I’m doing with my life to be WRITING without a goal in mind. What’s wrong with me? they will ask.

44But my writing is too important to me to do it how everyone else wants me to do it. And I can say that I don’t care what others will think, but it’s not true, because I really am rather timid at heart. I’m Bilbo in an Eagle’s eyrie, lost in a strange and frightening world, not knowing if I’ve just been rescued or if I’m about to be somebody’s breakfast; just wanting to be back home in my hobbit hole with my kettle singing. I just want my little world, without the concerns of wizards or dwarves or dragons or editors or publishers to disturb me. “I miss my books,” he says in the movie. And I do. I miss them. I want to go back to them. Without guilt, without any outside notions invading my mind of amounts of words or whether I’m a failure because I haven’t finished anything in awhile or because I don’t write every day or because I’m apparently not dedicated enough to the “craft” of writing to do what everyone says I should do. I want to go back to my books and love them again. To love them enough to tell them.

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there,” says Gandalf in the movie. Well I don’t care about the world, Gandalf. The world can bloody well stay “out there.” My books and maps are where I want to be. “Then world behind and home ahead, we’ll wander back to home and bed,” the hobbits sing in The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m leaving the world behind and going home. My stories want me. And I want them.

I’m aware this is a rant.

I’m aware it’s an excuse, possibly attempting, vainly, to convince myself that I still AM a writer.

I’m aware that I should positively not post this because I should never ever post things written when I’m upset and doubting myself and doubting everything and have a headache and can’t see through tears and generally am not thinking straight.

33I always pretend, online, that I’m okay. People online — or even people I see in real life outside my own house — think I’m a cheerful sort of person. They think I’m a bit of sunshine, that I’m happy and that I’m always okay. But I’m not always okay. I have doubts and worries and dark clouds just as much as the next person. I just always hate to be THAT PERSON who rants about my troubles online and makes everyone else feel bad. And my troubles are so minuscule compared to many others’, so I feel like it’s selfish to even mention any of them. Because who am I to be sad? How dare I be sad. So I try to be happy online. And it’s usually okay. But sometimes you just CAN’T.

I may not post for awhile. Or exist anywhere. I don’t know. I think I need to figure some stuff out.

I love you guys and I’m so sorry to dump this on you. I know it would be kinder not to.

But I’m just tired of pretending I’m a “writer” and that I’m trying to be what everyone wants me to be.

66I’m so done. I want to be me. I don’t know who that is anymore, but maybe I can find out, someday.

And, oddly enough, I feel rather better now. But it’s not odd, is it? What did I say about those words that need to get out. Writing is a door to the heart, a bridge to the soul. And when the heart and soul are darkened, sometimes the words will be too. But sometimes they will help chase the shadows away.

I may not be a writer by the world’s standards, but (in the elegant words of some British person, I’m sure, whom I can’t recall specifically just now), the world can go boil its head.

My writing is between me and God and my ever-demanding stories, and I don’t have to answer to anyone else for it.

11“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we my come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.”

–The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Frustrated Rants of a Victim of Self Publishing

frustratedrants

Perhaps I should clarify: this is not about self-publishing per se. And it is not intended to bash any author or any book. This is more about what I call republishing: the power that self-published authors have to tweak or rewrite their own books after “publication” (especially e-books); how this power impacts readers, and whether this is good or not.

I don’t have answers. This is just a rant about some problems I have seen or experienced. Proceed at your own risk. Thank you.


“Publishing” doesn’t seem to have the same meaning anymore. A published book used to be fairly final. Maybe there would be some typos fixed in later printings, or perhaps a second edition or whatever. But it was more of a complicated process, involving lots of people, and therefore used somewhat sparingly.

With self-publishing, particularly with e-books, the author can change the book any time they want, and in any way. Which makes it easier for fixing typos, of course (huzzah!).

But what about more than that?

It seems to this reader that many self-published books this reader has run into, were published by a youngish author (not even necessarily young; maybe just less experienced) awhile ago… and even could have been a very good book… and then the author decides they’ve improved as a writer and decide to majorly tweak or rewrite said “published” book.

This is what I call republishing, and I am a victim of it.

I’m not naming names or titles. There’s doubtless always a reason for such things being done, and often I even agree with them. This is not for any person(s) or book(s) in particular. I’m not bashing anyone! Anyone who may have done this… I still love them. This is just an accumulation in my mind that requires this reader to rant.

So rant I shall.

What if you’ve bought the old version…

…and haven’t read it?

If I’ve bought a book and haven’t read it yet, and then hear it’s being rewritten, or has been, since I bought it… well, that makes me not want to read the version I own. Why should I bother? It’s an old version. It’s no longer current. It does make me feel rather depressed — I bought this book, but it’s no longer a “real” book so I’m not going to read it… or if I do, I’ll know it’s not “real” any longer. And if I’m not going to read this version, that I bought, why should I bother buying and reading the new version? It rather puts me off the whole idea, which is a sadness indeed. Especially when I really wanted to read that book!

If someone sends me a copy of their unpublished work-in-progress to beta-read, and I’m busy and don’t get around to it right away, and then they send me an updated version before I’ve read the first… am I going to read the first version or the new one? The new one, of course.

It’s like that, except that it’s unpublished and is expected to change.

A published book is supposed to be finished, right?

Right?

What if you’ve bought the old version

…and HAVE read it?

Oftentimes it seems that authors who do this republishing are very aware of what they’re doing, and very kindly put their republished book up for free for a time, so that buyers of the previous version (read, or unread) can have the new version and won’t be victims. This is very considerate of them, and I appreciate the sentiment. Maybe it works for most people.

I for one have never managed to make this work. Allegedly you can delete your version on your kindle or kindle app, and re-order the book from amazon, and it should be the new version. For me, that’s never worked. It always keeps the original version, no matter what I do. Again, this may just be me.

But, along that line…

What if it does work?

What if the e-book of the old version is whisked magically (scientifically; whatever) away into the nether-ness of deleted data, and replaced with a shiny, new, updated version just as the author wishes it to be.

What if you have the new version, but…

What if you liked the older version better?

This has happened to me. I’ve read books that the author has later rewritten or changed now that they’re a better writer… and I have infinitely preferred the previous version. Fortunately, the particular one I’m thinking about, the old was a physical copy, and the new version an e-book. So I could compare the changes, read both versions, and realize that I preferred the old… and still had it so I can still read that version. Happy day!

But. If I had preferred the old version, and it had been a replaced e-book (if it had worked), then the version I liked better would have been gone.

Forever.

Something about that idea makes this book-loving reader’s heart bleed and this reader’s word-devouring eyes cry.

(It also reminds me of, in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, how Mr. Norrell made all the copies of Mr. Strange’s book on magic disappear, because he didn’t like Strange’s take on things. Granted, that’s someone else getting rid of it, which is not quite the same as the author doing so. But still.)

True, it would be the version the author liked better.

But what of the reader?

Isn’t the reader important too?

Aren’t books for readers?

Who is right: the author, or the reader?

Well, I believe both are right. That’s why things get complicated. (This could easily trail off into a discussion of Tolkien and the Tree of Tales… but that’s a ginormous topic for another day.)

But if I read a book and love it and recommend it to everyone… and then the author changes it… how will I know if it’s still the book I recommended? What if it isn’t? How can I recommend it? What if I want to recommend the old version but it’s not available anymore?

As I said, when beta-reading an unpublished manuscript, you know it’s not the final product and will change. Sometimes I prefer an earlier version to the final one, personal reader preference versus author-decision; author has the final word, which is as it should be since it’s their story. But at least, then, I know it’s subject to change. It’s not finished. It’s not finalized. It’s not PUBLISHED.

Now, it seems that “published” doesn’t necessarily mean anything anymore.

Self-published books seem to just mean it’s available for people to read.

But it’s not safe. It could change at any time.

From a reader’s point of view, this is frightening.

From an author’s?

Well, from an author’s point of view, it’s wonderful. You (this is a generic “you”. It doesn’t mean you who are reading this or anyone in particular) can publish your book, people can read it, everything can be great… Then if you decide that you’ve grown as a writer and hate your old version or think it needs a lot of tweaking, if you’re self-published and especially with e-books, you can just go in and fix it — easy-peasy — and feel that all’s right with the world and whoever buys it from now on (and whoever successfully downloads the copy you put available for free for awhile) will have the new, the updated, the REAL version that’s the version you like.

. . . For now.

Until you decide to change it again.

Published doesn’t apparently mean “finished” anymore.

Am I judging anyone?

Heck no.

If I had anything published and — horror of horrors — found a typo, I’d go right in and change it.

If I had self-published my first finished novel back when I was thinking about publishing it, I’d be in the exact same boat as all these republishers. I look back at that fourteen-or-however-old-I-was writing and I cringe and am very glad that I was not prevailed upon (as the pressure was) to publish right away, back when I felt like it was “ready”. (Ha.) Otherwise I would be rushing right in to republish an updated, rewritten version. Probably multiple times. Especially since my first finished book is now in the middle of a series, and will require massive rewrites and perhaps a complete overhaul by the time I get the other books written.

Which brings us to another aspect of this discussion…

Continuity in series

I will admit that Tolkien himself ended up changing part of a chapter of The Hobbit, after its publication, before The Lord of the Rings was published. Without it, maybe The Lord of the Rings wouldn’t have made sense. *shrug* Or maybe it would. But it was a fairly big deal and he even went to lengths to make the change fit in within the story-world itself (i.e., the old version was the version Bilbo wrote in his book, since The Hobbit was his memoir, and it was different than what truly happened and was published later, because the Ring was already working on him and he didn’t want to tell the whole story about getting it, and Gollum, and everything).

How about the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. The first book, Redwall, was published almost without the author’s knowledge; he had just written it to amuse the blind children at the school he delivered milk to, and had no real plans to publish it, but somebody just basically did. Huzzah! Consequently, when he began to write more stories there were a lot of continuity errors between Redwall and the later (and earlier) books, and also between them as he was writing them. Did he go back and rewrite/edit them to fit together better? No, he did not. Do readers sometimes complain about this? Yes, they do. But I for one am glad of it (the not-changing; not the complainers). They may not make entire sense all together, but they’d be different if they did, and I like them how they are, and I’m much happier that he went on to write many other delightful Redwall adventures instead of mucking about trying to make the published ones all seamlessly fit together.

Authors are human. There are errors, especially in huge series. And that’s okay.

Also, I can’t let a discussion of republishing end without mentioning the republished versions of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys series. The original versions (Hardy Boys books started in 1927, Nancy Drew in 1930) were “modernized” in the ’50s and ’80s and also since then, and basically entirely rewritten AND PUBLISHED AGAIN UNDER THE SAME TITLES. What even is this nonsense.

Now, I positively loved the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys stories (though the Rick Brant books were my favorites of those kind of old series. SCOTTY. <3). They’re so much fun and just… yes. Awesome. But the newer ones, edited to be more “socially acceptable” or some rubbish, are ick. Like, the original characters were awesome and noble and heroic and fun. The old books are wonderful and the new ones are awful and TOTALLY different. And yet they’re hailed as the real versions these days because the old ones are old and rare and… the new ones are masquerading as the old ones and pretending to be the actual books but they’re NOT. This really bothers me…

So there is a case of a “real” publisher republishing things… It’s not just self-publishers, I know… But any version of this can be annoying is all I’m saying.

Also on that note… Abridged. JUST… NO. I do not like books being abridged! It feels just… so so wrong. -_-

My rant is trailing off down several rabbit trails, as rants are wont to do…

I can see the point of editing a book so that it will make sense with the later books in the series, or editing it because otherwise there can be no sequels at all because the story doesn’t fit.

But that doesn’t mean, as a reader, that I have to like it.

And maybe the first book should have waited to be published until the later ones were finished if continuity is that big of a concern.

Yes, I suppose it’s somewhat cool that anyone can publish their own book; freedom and all that.

I can see a certain benefit to being able to go back and redo a book one wrote as a teen, or even as a generally younger person who was not yet as advanced of a writer as one currently is.

But maybe one shouldn’t have published it yet if it wasn’t ready.

William Goldman said that The Princess Bride and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (movie) were the only things he wrote that he can look back on without humiliation, because he dislikes his own writing. But he didn’t go back and try to fix them.

All writers grow as they continue writing.

And as long as their work(s) is unpublished, they should feel free to write and rewrite and tweak to their heart’s content. But it’s quite possible that once it’s published it should be finished and done with and largely unchanged, aside from minor things like typos (yes, my perfectionist self will make allowances for that) and, yes, there can be a second edition or maybe a tweaked this or that… Traditionally published books do seem to sometimes do things like that. But it’s purposefully slow and difficult.

Because published books are supposed to be basically finished.

That’s why they’re published and not still manuscripts.

Conclusion

Ignore this post or disagree with it or argue with it or hate it as you will.

I don’t have answers.

I’m not pretending to.

This is a rant of a confused victim of self-publishing and consequently republishing, who no longer knows what to think.

I’m torn because, as a writer myself, I see the author’s point of view, and I know if it came right down to it and I was published (fortunately, I am not) I would probably be doing the same thing, and be glad about it.

But as I said, I’m torn. Because as a reader, I want my books to be just that. Books. Not ever-changing manuscripts. I want BOOKS.

I may never be an author.

I’ve been a writer for a long time and hope to be for even longer, as long as I have stories to write down.

But I’ve always been and hopefully always will be a reader.

And with so many writers and self-publishers in the world today (this can be both good and bad; again, I don’t have answers) I feel like it’s time that a reader’s opinion is heard.

This reader had something to say, decided to embrace free speech, whether or not it was a good idea, and has now said it.

Do with it what ye will.

fin

A Reaction: Should We Read What Everyone Else Is Reading?

Note: This started out as a comment I was writing after reading Cait @ Paper Fury‘s post “Should We Read What Everyone Else Is Reading” and the comments afterward.

It was an interesting post about a fascinating quote, namely:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Haruki Murakami

My comment got REALLY long and kind of unrelated so I decided to turn my comment into a blog post, so here it is.

But first, do go read Cait’s post so that you understand mine! (Hers is a quicky post and very amusing so it won’t be hard to read, I promise).

Okay, have you read it? Good.

On to my reply:

Wow. This is an intense discussion. o.o I have mixed thoughts as well.

Okay, so for ME, I’m actually NOT a book blogger! *gasp* I read books primarily for ME and occasionally someone will ask me to review their book, or I’ll see a book I
wanted to read up for review.

But mostly I don’t read a lot of the modern/mainstream books simply because they don’t come my way/don’t sound interesting. Me and my life/background/thoughts are entirely different than most people out there. Some of these just DON’T APPEAL TO ME even though they are are totally relateable to everyone else out there. And that’s what I’m trying to say here.

The Hunger Games, Divergent… I hate dystopian; it depresses me. I like a little HOPE in my books, please and thank you, and reading about a bunch of people living in the dirt being oppressed by an evil government living in luxury is just… not my idea of fun reading.

Harry Potter? Any and every contemporary YA book of ever? I was homeschooled; I just don’t GET any of the books set in a public school (magical or not) because I don’t understand the classroom politics and groups and cliques and obsessions and backstabbing and jerks and bullies and “popular girls” and “popular guys” and football and sports and things. It’s not a culture I find interesting/relateable, or anything I WANT to read about because it is not me. IT JUST DOES NOT INTEREST ME AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY IT INTERESTS OTHER PEOPLE. (I mean, I know WHY but… again, not me.) (And no, it doesn’t help to read books about homeschoolers because, contrary to popular belief, all homeschoolers are actually super different than each other.)

City of Bones? Twilight? I’m just not the biggest fan of paranormal. *shrug*

Cinder? Again, not a fan of dystopian and not very much of sci-fi either.

Percy Jackson? The modern thing again, AND I’ve never been a fan of Greek myths… Dunno why, but I prefer Celtic stuff and King Arthur and fairytales… Greek stuff has always felt… greasy to me. 😛

I could go on and on with lists of popular books and why the sound of them just doesn’t interest me. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t enjoy them if I read them — I very well might! I just don’t want to spend all of that time finding out, when I could be reading books I think I’ll want to read.

Time (especially reading time) is precious.

And I don’t see a point in reading a whole lot of books that do not appeal to me, just because they appeal to everyone else.

And that’s my point. I’m so “out there” MYSELF that I don’t find the popular books interesting at all because I’m just different from everyone else.

And I do think a lot of that is BECAUSE I grew up reading different books. I grew up reading old books and fantasy recommended by family members and really close friends (recommendations are good, actually — I’m not saying otherwise!) and random interesting-looking fantasy books that I found second-hand at library sales. I find gems that nobody’s heard of, and yes it’s sad when I don’t have anyone to talk to about it…

But again, I read for ME.

So discussion or bookblogging isn’t a big thing for me, I guess. I read what I want to read, and most of the time that happens to be something not many people have heard about.

Books do shape you. So what I grew up reading has shaped me, and what others grew up reading has shaped them, and I think that’s the point of the quote. If we all read the same books, yes we’ll still be different people because everyone IS unique and we all have our own thoughts — but we’ll still be more similar.

I like to compare it to TV shows.

Nearly everyone I know LOVES Doctor Who. I think that’s because there’s a little bit of something in it for everyone. So it reaches the broadest range of audience — and consequently everyone loves it because they found the part in it to click for them. I enjoy some Doctor Who (fun! The Doctor himself!), but I’m not obsessed with it, simply because I don’t feel like every single episode/part appeals to me. But then you take a lesser-known show, like Leverage, or Hustle, or especially Firefly, and those are much less heard about/talked about, but I love them so much more! I think they’re directed to a certain smaller select audience, and tailored directly for them instead of aiming for EVERYONE, and therefore to the select audience, it’s ten-times better.

I think there’s a sense in which that quote just means if everyone was ONLY reading Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter, and not branching out at all (which is not true — you all say you read other things and find new gems and we all end up reading things nobody’s read as well) there just would not be a bunch of NEW ideas from DIFFERENT books coming into our heads. It’s not meant to say we all think the same — which is definitely not true, as Cait and others are pointing out — it’s just that if we all only read the same things, where would the recommendations of the random book nobody’s heard of but is awesome come from? And how can different, important, more “out there” ideas find their way to us, if we all only read the generally popular stuff? It’s just… new ideas and new books have to come from somewhere, and if everyone ONLY reads the “mainstream”, “popular” ones, there would be less new thoughts showing up EXCEPT ABOUT THOSE BOOKS. That’s all. 🙂

But really, again, I only read FOR ME, and because I’m not a book blogger, it’s not that big of a deal to me like it is to you guys, I think. And occasionally I do feel a resistance to reading a book if EVERYONE had recommended it because in my experience if everyone loves a book, it’s usually more of a case of what I said about the TV shows (something for everyone, but not everything for me) and so I generally don’t care as much for said book… OR I just have a rebellious tendency because I AM very much about reading what *I* want to read, not what everyone else says I should — because I want to make my own way! A rebel… that’s me. 😉

So part of it is stubbornness, part of it is past experience, and part of it is just not being interested in most of the popular books, simply because of personal taste and life experience and cultural background.

BUT don’t get me wrong: I DO LOVE GETTING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS.

(I feel like this entire post should come with an enormous disclaimer. XD Especially when I say generic things like “everyone”, which I don’t REALLY mean… It’s just general… >.>)

That being said, nobody should read books ONLY because they’re popular and I think everyone should read what they want to, but as was pointed out, there is a reason things become popular, yes, and sometimes it’s useful to read popular things just so you can understand the culture around you.

Like (back to shows) I understand the internet SO much better having seen some Doctor Who and knowing at least a bit about Supernatural, and having seen Sherlock. (Sherlock is awesome, BTW.) There are just some things that are so cultural that one needs to understand them to understand people. Like, I might end up reading the Harry Potter books (that’s a big controversy too because some people hate them but I’m not going into that today) not because everyone says I have to or because they interest me a SUPER amount, but because it’s gotten to the point where enough of my friends have HP as their “core fandom” that I just can’t understand them very well without reading it… Just like most people wouldn’t necessarily understand me without having read (or at least seen) MY “core fandom” which is The Lord of the Rings. And I might read The Hunger Games because I’ve been seeing the movies with my brother, and again it’s a cultural understanding thing. Sometimes it’s not worth holding out against “popular” or against “uninterested” if it means that if you DO read them you will have a deeper friendship with your friends and understand them better. But those popular books aren’t a real high priority right now, because I read for ME. I might read them, eventually… I might not. I have other stuff to read right now because I’m excited about other things, and that’s the point.

I do love it when I read someone’s blog and they mention a book and I’m like I’VE READ THAT! YES!!! But I read slowly enough and there are so many books I DO want to read, that I’m not going to specifically tailor my reading just so that I can read all the books everyone else is reading, just so I can talk about them with everyone.

I’ve run across a very small handful of books that I consider to be “perfect”. The more popular on the list would be The Lord of the Rings, The Penderwicks, and The Horse and His Boy. But a lot of them most people have never heard of. Howl’s Moving Castle, The Gammage Cup, The Ordinary Princess, Prince Valiant (YES!), Searching for Dragons, The Kestrel, The Boggart, The Reluctant Dragon, more recently Broken Glass in the Five Glass Slippers collection, and near the very top a book that’s not even PUBLISHED yet, Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal.

And I have others that are top favorites of mine, but even favorites sometimes have something you didn’t like quite as much, but as far as I-HAVE-LITERALLY-NO-COMPLAINTS-ABOUT-THIS-BOOK those are pretty few and far between and I don’t think one will run across those little gems if one only reads the “popular” books. NOT because popular books aren’t good, but because they’re aimed toward everyone, not the specific smaller group that is you.

But those books I mentioned, I just think of them and I’m happy without any reservation, and I always want to reread them. They’re not necessarily my FAVORITES (okay, so some of them are) but they’re the most perfect books I’ve ever read.

And I do love talking with people about books we’ve both read — it’s the funnest thing in the world! — but it’s even BETTER when I meet someone who has read and liked one of my favorites or one of these “perfect” books because they ARE more rare and less popular, and they’re a part of my heart, and if someone has read and loved one or several of them, I know this person is a kindred soul. 🙂 It wouldn’t be QUITE the same if it was a book I loved that EVERYONE had read and everyone had loved, you know what I mean? In a way, it wouldn’t be as special.

Books are extremely subjective. We all come to a book differently and take something different away, and that’s as it should be! A book that one person might love, another might hate, and yet another might feel meh about. I’m not disagreeing with Cait, or with any of her brilliant commenters, I’m just putting my own thoughts out there. 🙂

I don’t know if there’s a point to this. I just started typing reactions to Cait’s post and this is what came out, and I decided that 1) it was too long to actually post as a comment and 2) it might be make an interesting read as a blog post!

So. Bookish thoughts.

Deborah out.