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.

Unpopular Opinions Tag

So, you know how I said I had one tag left? Well back up, I have an amendment to that statement. Why, you ask?

Because Cait @ Paper Fury just tagged me with the bookish Unpopular Opinions Tag! Which kind of makes my day/week. Thanks Cait!!

So, I am going to do that! (Which will nicely carry my final [?] tag-post to my normal posting day of Monday. I like tidiness, I do.)

At first I was thinking of not doing it, because I’m not naturally a negative person. But I decided to give myself license to rant a liiittle bit today. For therapeutic reasons, you understand. 😉 I hope I won’t offend/annoy anyone. o.o But… well… these are kinda my opinions and as Cait so wisely said, we can all have differing opinions on small bookish things and still be friends! (Mostly. Hopefully. I have learned such things the hard way. :P)

So. Let’s do this thing!

(Pictures from Pinterest and Goodreads. Yes I did just raid my entire store of gifs on Pinterest why do you ask… Gifs make everything better and are stupendous at lightening moods. *nod nod*)

The Unpopular Opinions Tag of a Bookish Variety

1. A POPULAR BOOK OR SERIES YOU DIDN’T LIKE.

Um… I’m not sure if they count as popular, but I’m going to pick two books for this.

knightlyunfortunate

The End, the last book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket — which I just hated how it ended and it didn’t explain ANYTHING and just gaahh. I kept reading the whole series, partly because they were amusing (in a dark way) and partly to find out what happened. BUT IT DIDN’T TELL US.

And Knightly Academy by Violet Haberdasher, because it had such potential to be awesome (I mean, a boy goes to school to become a knight in an alternate Victorian England? Sounds awesome, right?) but just UGH it let me down. I guess it’s just how all schools are with the bullies and the pointlessness and stuff. But I couldn’t see WHY the hero wanted to go to that school and he was so trod upon and it was sad and so annoying.

(Or… more like angry. But the gun shooting is accurate so…)

2. A POPULAR BOOK/SERIES EVERYONE HATES BUT YOU LOVE.

Again, don’t know if they count as popular, but…

houndillusionarium

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. I just loved it but nobody else seems to! What? PRINCE GEORGE, OKAY. He’s the best. And the story did enough twists and turns to make me rearrange my brain and just it was kind of amazing.

Also maybe Illusionarium by Heather Dixon, which might not count because it just came out but people seem to complain about it and I’m just sitting here going EXCUSE ME?? Aside from it being too creepy for me, it was SPECTACULAR. How can people complain that it’s… um… boring??

3. A LOVE TRIANGLE WHERE THE PROTAGONIST ENDED UP WITH THE PERSON YOU DIDN’T WANT THEM TO BE WITH.

(Is it bad the first thing in my mind at this question was a confused notion of Hawkeye? But he’s not a book character and I think I’m okay with it but I don’t know…)

halflings

I don’t know if I can think of one… I guess I don’t read much love-triangle stuff? But how about Halflings by Heather Burch — that has a love triangle and I kind of like both of the guys but Raven is kind of awesomer than Mace, so. And then I’ve HEARD suspicious things about Maria and Quinn and someone else later in the Destiny trilogy by Sarah Holman… so I’ll have to see. Ahem. I’ve only read the first in each series (I actually really liked The Destiny of One) so actually have no idea and am totally unqualified! But still.

destinyBut yeah. Love triangles in general… A mess.

4. POPULAR GENRE YOU HARDLY READ.

dystopian

Dystopian! Just… no. -_- I DO NOT LIKE IT. I’ve read, like… three? The genre makes me shrivel inside and is thoroughly unpleasant and just it gives me this awful feeling and depresses me. No thank you. THEY ARE JUST SO… HOPELESS OKAY. Like, the evil people have everything and are rich and the good people live in the dirt literally and are oppressed and everybody’s grumpy and everyone dies and sure mayyybe eventually the good guys will win (maybe?) but who even cares by now? Life just doesn’t sound worth living. Blech. I don’t have anything much specifically against the ones I have read, I mean, they’re fairly good and all (Captives by Jill Williamson, and Swipe and Sneak by Evan Angler… and yes I will read the Swipe sequels because PECK. PECK PECK. Though I just remembered some others I’ve read and no). On the whole I’m just not a fan of dystopian and will only read them when forced. NO THANK YOU.

5. A POPULAR/BELOVED CHARACTER YOU DISLIKE.

Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I’m sorry, people, but I cannot abide characters who pine away and make themselves ill for love, especially for love of someone who’s a complete jerk, especially when there’s a really nice guy in plain sight, especially when all she’s doing is being a burden to her sister and mom and basically being worthless and it’s just stupid stupid stupid. I’M SORRY OKAY but I just can’t understand why anyone likes Marianne Dashwood. To me, she was just extremely unlikeable. I’m sure everyone else is seeing something I can’t and I’m just sitting here trying to figure it out…

mdashwood

6. A POPULAR AUTHOR YOU CAN’T SEEM TO GET INTO.

Suzanne Collins? I haven’t read the HG books yet but I read Gregor the Overlander years ago before HG was even a THING and I just… couldn’t get into it. Or Orson Scott Card with anything other than Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow.

7. A POPULAR TROPE YOU’RE TIRED OF READING.

The tough girls. Maybe this is extreme, but I’m very very sick of the so called tough heroines who think they’re so awesome (but are in reality even whinier than their more timid counterparts) and are all “I can be one of the guys and awesomer than they are and yeah I’m so tough.” I’m sooo tired of those. Ladies, you can use weapons and stuff — that is awesome, I have no problem with it, go you — and fine you can wear trousers if it’s more practical (though usually it’s more to make a statement) but can we please have enough of this attitude and making a big deal of everything? SERIOUSLY. -_-

shoojack

8. A POPULAR SERIES YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN READING.

Um… Twilight? Though I almost want to read it just to see what everyone’s deal is with hating it so bad. 😛 Almost. Recently I would also have answered this with Harry Potter and the Hunger Games trilogy. I guess they would fit under the question actually because “no interest in reading” which is rather true of me, but maybe someday I might end up reading them anyway just to see what on earth is up with them, peoples. Y’know, some decade when I actually have time and if they ever actually take priority over books that I’m excited about and WANT to read… Ha.

(Yeah, that’s funny…)

9. A SHOW/MOVIE ADAPTION YOU LIKED BETTER THAN THE BOOK.

The Princess Bride, and the 1990 Treasure Island with Christian Bale and Charlton Heston. OKAY I SAID IT. There are a couple movies I like more than the books. But this is really extreme. 😛 I do love both the books too though! But the movies were just… aaahh, so awesome! Of course the screenplay of The Princess Bride was done by the author, which is cool. I as-you-wish The Princess Bride. ❤

And Treasure Island, especially with its epic music by The Chieftains and just I loved all the casting and whatever changes they made I mostly liked and it was just awesome. And Charlton Heston as Long John Silver was awesome and Christian Bale as Jim Hawkins was perfection, and I kind of really loved Captain Smollet for some reason. It may have been his hair, or accent…? Anyways nobody really knows about it because I think it was a TV movie, and maybe it’s a bit violent but I kind of just loved it.

10. A POPULAR STYLE OF COVER YOU CAN’T STAND. (Cait’s addition to the tag)

I’m… not much of a cover connoisseur I’m afraid, other than unashamedly loving gorgeous dresses on covers… But it kind of annoys me when part of a face is missing… And mostly I think minimalistic sort of covers, popularized by The Hunger Games methinks, are super annoying. Like… a black background with some words and maybe some sort of icon thing. *shrug* It’s kind of boring I’m afraid. I wouldn’t say I “can’t stand” it but yeah. LET’S HAVE PEOPLE ON THE COVERS. DRESSES. WEAPONS. I DON’T KNOW — SOMETHING INTERESTING. Oh, and also, in general, covers that looked like they were made by a three-year-old. They make me sad.

***

There are no specific “rules” for this tag, so again I’m not tagging anyone — those who like stating their unpopular opinions are likely to take it anyway, and those who are more timid about it (like me…) might be torn about doing it.

So! Once again, if you would like to do this, play snag-the-tag! It’s a fun game, I assure you.

There is my post. I have now gotten my bookish negativity checked off my list for the next… hopefully year. 😛

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?
Have I done an unsafe thing by stating unpopular opinions?
WILL I BE SAFE AT NIGHT? O_O

(I guess we’ll find out… I keep a dragon under my bed as a burglar alarm. I do. His name is Flame the Frabjous and he’s very well trained against bilboes and other less harmless things that go bump in the night like frumious bookworms out armed with weapons of revenge that cause paper-cuts.)