Wife, Mother, Writer, Reader, Ice Cream Lover

A post on Book Riot (my new favorite website about books and reading), The Reasons I Don't Read: Causes of the Dreaded Book Slump, hit home with me this morning because I am in a book slump. In fact, I'm so bothered by my book slump it made the list of things that are pissing me off that I bombarded my poor husband with on Tuesday.

  1. I'm procrastinating.
  2. I'm not writing.
  3. I hate our gym.
  4. I can't lose weight.
  5. I haven't lost myself in a book in months.

I won't bore you with talk about the first four because they are all on me and things I could fix if I put my mind to it. Though, in my defense, our gym isn't a gym, but a rec center with all the weird little quirks that comes with that. That place pissed me off from the word go with their weird childcare hours (at a crucial time in my life when working out was my only avenue to sanity), stupid rules and the fact it didn't have a water fountain on the workout floor. I mean, come on. What the hell kind of design is that?

*takes a deep breath*

Anyway. Reading. I talked to writer friends about this last night at happy hour.

And, can I just stop down right here and say how amazingly awesome is that I'm having happy hour with writer friends? Slowly but surely, I feel like I'm a part of a larger community, an industry, that I'm a professional. Crazy how much I missed that.

Anyway. Reading.

I can't read a novel without analyzing it from a writer's point of view. Without thinking,

"Oh! I should do that!" or

"Good God! I would never do that!" or

"Oh my God! Do I do that?" or

"If I did that, Workshop would cut me off at the knees."

Let me tell you, it sucks the enjoyment right out of reading.

"Come on, Melissa. Not reading isn't the end of the world."

To that I say, "You obviously aren't a reader." It is the end of the world. I love reading. It's who I am. Reading has educated me, comforted me, angered me, inspired me. One of my biggest joys in life is recommending a book to a friend and that friend loving it. It's a Twitter descriptor - wife, mother, writer, reader, ice cream lover - the last of which explains #4 up there. It's not like reading is a bad habit I need to kick. In fact, it's something I have to do to be a good writer.

Therein lies the problem.

I haven't been picking up books that grab my interest, but books I feel like I should read, specifically mysteries.

Here's a little quirk of mine: I write mysteries but I don't read a lot of mysteries. In fact, I write mysteries that I want to read. Fodder for another post.

As a result, instead of focusing on enjoying the story, I've been over-analyzing the text, the writer's style, how it differs from mine, what I can learn. In the last six months, reading has become homework and no one likes homework. My writer friends suggested I should get completely out of my genre which is, of course, the common sense response and one I should have seen myself, and would have if the other four issues up there hadn't sent me spiraling into irritation overload.

Will I continue to analyze everything I read. Probably. I fear it is the curse of being a writer. But, I still believe there are books out there that I will lose myself in, that I will forget to think of scene structure, tension, dialogue and plot. There's only one way to find it.

Keep reading.

Top Ten Tuesday: To Read or Not To Read?

It's Tuesday, which means I can use the prompt from The Broke and the Bookish to keep my blog from getting covered in cobwebs. This week's list is Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read --- basically any book that has you going, "TO READ OR NOT TO READ?" 1. Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Picketty - I want to read this but I generally only make it 10% into business/self-improvement books before I'm bored out of my mind.

173332232. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - A book about "a rumination on the nature of art and appearances" doesn't entice me to tackle a 784 page book, especially when I have its cousin sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me to finish.

3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - the aforementioned cousin of The Goldfinch, i.e. literary doorstop with a partially obscured painting on a tan book cover. I started The Luminaries but I too easily set it aside for me to hurry back to it.

4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Poor Moby Dick. It will never get off of my To Read or Not To Read list, I fear.

5. William Faulkner - He may be brilliant, but he's a slog.

6. Middlemarch by George Eliot - another English language masterpiece I didn't connect with.

7. John Green - Was so unimpressed with The Fault in our Stars I doubt I'll ever pick up another one of his books, especially when a common criticism I hear is his books are startlingly similar.

8. Outlander Books 6-8 - I blew through the first five books one after the other years ago when I discovered Gabaldon. I loved her writing, characters, history and scope. But reading one after the other burned me out on the world. I would need to re-read the first books before tackling 6-8 and I've no doubt the same thing would happen. Luckily, the Starz adaptation is brilliant.

9. Game of Thrones Books 5 and Beyond - Started and disliked book five. Immensely. Maybe more than The Fault in our Stars, which is saying something.

I'll stop there. It feels weird, wrong even, to write a post about books I'm not going to read. Still, blog content!

What books do you vacillate on?

Life is too short to read bad books.

Tuesday, Goodreads posted an infographic "The Psychology of Abandonment," detailing what books are most commonly shelved as Abandoned, Not Finished or Unfinished, as well as the reasons why. I suppose you should take the infographic with a grain of salt, especially the percentages at the bottom, since there is no explanation of their methodology or a given sample size. Were 1000 people surveyed? Ten? Twenty? Did they email the survey (I never received one) or was it stuck on a page somewhere in their somewhat un-user friendly website that could only be found by a determined search or a lucky stumble? Those questions aside, the results are interesting and somewhat telling. The most common reason books are abandoned is "Slow, Boring" coming in at 46%. The next nearest reason is "Weak Writing" at 18.8%. That's a pretty big disparity and helps to explain why so many poorly written, but fast paced books top the best seller lists year in and year out (I'm looking at you, James Patterson). It also explains that while literary fiction will get the critical praise, it won't ever get the popular acclaim, it being more thought provoking and methodical as a general rule.

I wonder if all of those series obsessed publisher's hearts dropped at seeing only 2.5% of readers are compelled to finish from a dedication to the series? A whopping 36.6% sound obsessive compulsive, "As a rule, I like to finish things" and 25% are insatiably curious, "I have to know what happens."

Nearly 40% of readers finish a book regardless. That is astounding. I decided long ago life was too short to read a book I didn't enjoy. If a book hasn't caught my interest by the first turning point (which is usually at the 1/4 mark) then it's not going to happen. Those are the well-written books. If a book is poorly written (bad dialogue, canned characters, stupid plot) I'll dump it earlier. It's extremely rare I read a whole book I thoroughly dislike, though it has happened.

I'm not surprised Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the top five abandoned, nor am I surprised about The Casual Vacancy.  I haven't read the latter, mainly because the story doesn't interest me that much, but am not surprised the shallow reason "it's not Harry Potter" was so often cited. That was rather the point of the book, wasn't it? And, as I said a month ago, I tried with Fifty Shades.

My top two reasons for dropping a book is 1) bad writing and 2) boring. What makes you abandon a book? Or, are you one of the many who must finish no matter what?