We love to talk about the books we love, and the books that define us as readers, but rarely do we look at the uglier side of our reading lives. And why not though? When examining yourself as a reader, knowing what you don't like is an essential part of being able to choose books for yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable to face. Our dislikes anchor the other end of the spectrum of our tastes, and help us pinpoint what it is in books we prioritize or avoid.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to be a better, more efficient selector of books for myself this year. Last year I went on an exploratory spree of allllll the books, but being all over the map and going with the hype stuck me in a place where I wasn't enjoying reading nearly as much as I usually did. That exploration proved essential though, because it forced me to come to terms with the fact that I'm a very different reader than I once was, and that I need to get a better handle on my shifting tastes in order to fully enjoy my reading life. After considering all the new books that I've loved recently, and examining what specifically I enjoyed about certain books, I then had to go back and look at what I didn't like to help myself navigate my new reading life.
While I was doing this, I realized that I consistently avoid a few topics and genres in books carte blanche:
- Any book where a parent or kid dies, or where grief is the focus
- Torture in any form
- Books dealing with WWII in any capacity
I can explain the grief/death thing pretty well; my mother died a couple years ago, and that is just an off-limits area for my brain right now. Torture is distasteful for many people, so thats not a particularly odd thing to actively avoid...but the WWII theme surprises me.
I've been avoiding WWII in novels for quite a while, honestly; it's like my brain just hits a wall and goes NOPE whenever that's the setting or a main theme. I have literally no explanation for this violent reaction. Maybe I had a horrible experience in a past life? Who knows, but as open minded as I want to be with books that feature WWII, I'm learning to accept that I just can't read about it, and am starting to let it go. That means no bestsellers like The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See for me, but I'm okay with that, I think.
This got me thinking: does everyone have things they consistently avoid in books? Not just a genre, but something really specific that they just can't deal with in their reading lives. So tell me, do you have topics in books you consistently avoid? Do you know why?
I don't have any answers for this, it's just something I'm actively curious about. Rikki is much more open minded than I am in this regard, so I'd like to hear from others!