Book Club and How I Learnt to Hate Reading

For the first time in my life I dread reading. I won’t lie and claim it’s the first time I have come across books that I have considered unreadable. Nope, there is a list, and I was stunned to discover just how short it is, well, was. The reasons that books land on my “never again” list are varied, including amongst the following; ‘The Borrowers’ because it screamed upstairs downstairs (an 1980s ‘Downton Abby’), and ‘Anna Karenina’ because it was an overly descriptive book of its time. I put it back on my shelf and have left it to gather dust, guilt-free. Other reasons are far more general, such as disturbing, ugly, badly written, hideous characterisation etc,. However it is rare for me never to finish a book. Recently I have failed to finish two books in a row.

Years ago I read an essay by George Orwell entitled ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’ in this relatively thin piece, Orwell reflects on the life of the reviewer. In it he recounts the misery and horror of having to get through several badly written or just odiously boring books in a short period of time. He also contemplates the writer’s motive for seeking out publication and reviewers’ publicity. I confess that when I read this essay I felt very little besides the interest of curiosity. I certainly didn’t question or doubt the feelings expressed in Orwell’s essay.

My own experiences of reading was and is quite varied. As a teenager I read both Stephen King and Edith Wharton. I also read and loved ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and Anne Tyler’s ‘The Accidental Tourist’. I throughly enjoyed books by Judy Blume, the late Paula Danziger, S. E. Hinton, among others. Over the years I also read non-fiction, in fact in my early twenties I only read non-fiction for a while. Now my reading taste is just as eclectic, but I am beginning to realise I have limits too. For example romance and science fiction have never been my bag. Although, ironically enough I can watch television shows and films from both genres. Go figure!

As part of my writing educating, I decided to try reading both these genres; I found romance and science fiction to be detail heavy. The latter I got, but why theres’ so much information underpinning the average romance novel is mystery. I mean, its girl meets boy (or the other way round), they fall in love, it is/or it gets complicated, yadda yadda yadda, they make up, and live happily ever after, the end.

Since September 2014, I have been attending college studying writing for children. As a part of this course we were given a reading list, and told to read as much as possible, especially books published within the last ten years. I have been lucky enough to uncover some fantastic finds, in particular I absolutely adore Lemony Snicket’s series of Unfortunate Events. I now completely understand why kids went wild over them.

From the beginning of the course, every three to four weeks we have had a book selected for us to read. So far, we have read ‘A Room full of Chocolate’, ‘We Were Liars’, and ‘Coram Boy’. Most of the book club sessions have been punctuated with

“ was nice…”

In other words whatever we felt, we didn’t share! I made the exception with the second book. Something I still have mixed feelings about. We have been asked to read ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece’ next. The reviews and intel about the book’s story suggest it’s got political correctness and ‘hot button issues’ written all over it. Two of my biggest pet peeves, for this reason, I’m seriously considering ignoring the book club request altogether.

One thing I am certain of is this; I am not fond of trends, and these books mentioned above are essentially the books of trends. I use to hear people complaining about novels being badly written or being too difficult to read and how, oh how did it win an award/get such glowing responses etc,.? And I always wondered why they bothered to follow these trends if they were forever disappointed by them. I can’t say I have never been caught up in frenzied book craze, I have. Most trends, though do past me by.

I didn’t have anything against book clubs, I even considered joining one in my local library about five years ago. I had wanted to be around likeminded people. Now, I am just contented to read all by my lonesome. I prefer my choices anyway!

I do know this dread is temporary, and it only related to the books chosen for the class book club. Beyond this I have been reading a lot more recently than I did last year at the same time. I have discovered new writers and whole new ways of telling stories. This sense of angst may have had me tied up in knots, but I’m learning to recognise how I want to write and what I want to write about more clearly.

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