I am a reader. This doesn’t mean that I enjoy reading one or two books a year, or that I’m part of a book club, or that I’ll fill your brain with facts I gleaned from WikiLinks. (Though, I highly encourage the use of such things if this is the only way you are to obtain information in things other than the “lol” text you got from your drunk hookup this morning).
I am a reader that, like the cliche television persona, simply loves books. The smell of the pages, the weight of the binding, the feeling you get when you’ve picked up (or put down) a great read. I’m the girl with a book in my bag and two more in my car, just in case. As a matter of a fact, I just purchased a new purse with only one condition in mind – it had to be able to fit an average sized hardback, so that I could take a book wherever I go. I’m the girl who freaks out over upcoming writers, and makes sure to get a signature from the author at most book readings. The one who updates her Goodreads “Currently reading” list more than her Facebook status. I’m the one most likely to purchase earrings shaped like bookends, and have some lengthy quote from an obscure book pouring out of my mouth at any given moment.
I was also blessed with a current job in a Library – where I’m surrounded by books all day, and often by other bibliophiles who get just as much of a thrill by discussing their current read as they do talking about their last vacation. I’ve also taken on a role as the Writer in Residence, per say, and take pride in being able to discuss the craft and workings of various authors and various genres with anyone who so wishes to start the conversation at work.
The problem with all of this, and the reason that I’m hoping some of you can relate, is that I simply don’t read what other people do. I know that this sounds somewhat pompous – I’m definitely not trying to be a hipster reader. However, reading what’s popular as it becomes popular is definitely not a strong suit of mine. I’ve never read Girl on a Train or The Nightingale, nor do I plan to. I’ve also never read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or most classics, for that matter. George R.R. Martin helps create a great storyline for a television show, but lacks the writing style to keep me interested for more than one book. The classics that I know are Shakespeare and Greek mythology, not Twain and Keats. And this is a great stress to me because I am the person that always stands out.
Those conversations you might overhear between people about any “high school” read, chances are I’ve never participated. It is often an assumption of patrons who come into the library that I’ve already read any classic and they can ask me questions about the workings in great detail. This is 100% false. As a matter of a fact, when it comes to recommendations for reading, if you’re asking for personal experience I’m probably the last person you want to come to. I like surrealist fiction*, I enjoy a good mystery***, and I appreciate things for being unique to my experiences, regardless of their genre or theme. Those criteria often conflict with what other people expect – I enjoy surrealism, but usually turn my nose down on anything Sci-Fi or Fantasy related. I love Doctor Who and Game of Thrones (the tv show) but wouldn’t be interested in going through the series as a novel.***
It’s not that I don’t want to be a part of the collective memory of certain novels, it’s just that they don’t interest me. And by that, I mean they aren’t interesting at all. I tried pushing my way through Fahrenheit 451, and simply couldn’t. Any and all references to A Clockwork Orange are going to be lost on me.
And while this is perfectly acceptable (reading taste is something you cannot change, no matter how hard you try) I often feel left out of the collective consciousness. People are surprised when I say that I’m an English Writing graduate who has never read Pride and Prejudice, or that I work in a library but have no working knowledge of Faust. And it’s sad in a way, that I’ve been limited so much by what I have read, and that I constantly feel like I have to stand up for my interest and love of the written word. Even if I cannot say that I’ve read everything on the “Read before you Die” list, I have read quite a plethora of writing. I have probably read more books since January than some people have in the last 5 years. So why do I always feel so inadequate when talking to other book lovers who don’t see books as beautifully as I do but have read all of the classics?
This also comes to be a problem around christmas time, where without fail I will receive a book for christmas, and usually it’s not one that I would ever read. Because, honestly, I can’t tell anyone what types of books I read. I just find them.
Does anyone else feel this way? Anyone else having these problems?
* If you’re into surrealism, please share your thoughts/authors! I always love good story. I’ve been super into Aimee Bender as of late, as well as Andrew Kaufman (I’ve read all of both of their writing and I cannot get enough).
**My biggest recommendation for anyone interested in somewhat paranormal mystery is the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz – it is my all-time favorite read – partially from the story, partially from the descriptions, and partially because it is so unlike any other Koontz book ever written. Odd and Stormy are my literary soul mates, and I would love to hear if anyone else has had this connection as well.
*** That being said, I did try reading the Song of Ice and Fire series, and couldn’t make it past Storm of Swords. If you like G.R.R Martin’s writing style – good for you. I think I’ll stick with my Bender stories.