pop culture, reading

Do Our Reading Tastes Change Over Time?

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Is this even something to be concerned about? Maybe it’s just a bookdragon thing, because we’re already so tuned in to what genres and topics and styles we gravitate towards. But honestly, this is something that’s been nagging at me over the last several months.

When I was around White Fang’s age, I realized that a lot of the childhood favorites on which I learned to read were feeling, well, stale, and not as interesting as they had in elementary school. And, really, there’s nothing wrong with this, because of course your interests are going to alter as you grow from a child to an adolescent. So, experiencing the sense of setting out on a bold new adventure, I began scouring the library shelves for adult fiction.

After several years of this, I found myself a bit weary of overdone cliches and tropes I just couldn’t tolerate, or purple prose and “literary genius” styles that I cognitively couldn’t understand. Yes, I’m mature and bright, but complex and abstract allegories do absolutely nothing to enhance entertainment value in my reading pursuits. So, despite being well past the age that most people are expected to be enjoying YA fiction, I dove into it, with gusto.

Now we’re at the point where I’ve come to another realization — I think I may officially be past a stage of life where I actually, concretely care to read about teenage angst. Even if it’s well-written, and funny, and poignant.

It’s such a perplexing conflict, because I write adolescent main characters, and obviously need to have realistic insight into their problems or concerns. However, I don’t write exclusively from a YA POV, so maybe that’s where the crux of the biscuit lies. I can relate to that part of life, having been through it myself, and now that I’m raising a teenager. Hence, I can also see very well the POV of my adult characters — not wanting their kids to make “learning curve” mistakes, yet knowing some things are probably inevitable, and that sometimes taking a step back may actually be more productive for the next generation.

Given these facts, it’s dawning on me why I have such trouble reading current YA fic that portrays all the grown-ups as bad, and adolescents behaving as adults, through some apparent magical osmosis of learning responsibility from stereotyped “sensei” mentors.

Realistically, when I was in my late teens or early 20s, these tropes wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much as they do now.

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So, in the past year, I’ve tried going back to adult fiction. And it has been a spectacular flop. I can’t seem to find a title aimed at readers over the age of 22 that doesn’t include potentially graphic violence, profanity, and explicit sexual content, or that isn’t so ridiculously pretentious, or that isn’t so squeaky clean it’s downright inane. Despite the fact that I did actually enjoy a few of the many novels I attempted, even when they contained some of these seedier elements (A Song of Ice and Fire), most of them I couldn’t wait to return to the library. With a note recommending they be the first books tossed on the bonfire in the event of a long-time electricity outage during winter.

This I find an interesting quandary to be in. While I am very aware of what “the real world” can be like, I do read to escape, to dream, and to aspire. I have my own spiritual and political beliefs, and I reached them through years of experience and discussion and comparison, and personally, I’m just offended by hoping to lose myself in a fluffy romance, only to find an agenda being shoved down my throat around page 200.

That’s another issue getting between me and modern publications — Why must they all be SO LOOOOOOONG?? Is there a new rule for authors that I wasn’t told of? “Since 2016, anything you write with the intention of selling must be no less than 325 pages”? I’m 5 feet tall, folks, I will literally break myself carrying a stack of recent contemporaries across the parking lot to the car.

And then there’s the whole genre problem. Murder mysteries bore me to tears anymore. Same goes for chick lit. High fantasy I generally avoid, because I can’t even pronounce a quarter of the character names or place settings, and I’m so over the idea of entire chapters being dedicated to “the characters walked for miles and miles and the narrator described the material their bootlaces were made of.”

And what in the world has happened to historical fiction?! Basically there’s no such thing as historical integrity these days. Authors and publishers apparently feel totally all right with changing facts or altering important details to suit their creative whims. Yes, artistic license should be allowed; but when pure invention is permitted to pass for unquestioned truth concerning real people, that’s where we should all draw the line. And I don’t see that line anywhere on the horizon. That means I will make my statement by not reading any more of this trash, and calling it what it is.

The saddest thing of all this recent upheaval is that: I do not have many new books to read.

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All bookdragons completely understand the rush of discovery, the thrill of finishing a new author or title that has just made it onto our favorites list. And the extreme low point of a big letdown. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the ground-thumping-end of the seesaw for too long when it comes to new reads. Not only is it frustrating, it’s gotten way too old.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve been mulling over what to attempt for summer reading, I’ve decided it’s time to nail down some hard and fast rules.

One: I do not need a specifically adult or specifically YA novel. I need a style that doesn’t talk down to the reader, that sticks to the point, and introduces me to at least somewhat original characters.

Two: I’m not going to apologize for not liking certain genres. Fantasy and speculative fiction simply is my jam, and whoever doesn’t agree with that, doesn’t have to, but I’m done worrying that my tastes are inferior.

Three: I’ll have to start setting aside more time to further research titles everybody’s raving about. Just receiving positive feedback from others doesn’t mean I, the persnickety bookdragon, will like it.

Four: Most of my library checkouts will be for Muffin. At least for a while. Until aforementioned research has been conducted, and I can place holds with confidence.

Five: I’m going to stick to these rules, and be better off for it.

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3 thoughts on “Do Our Reading Tastes Change Over Time?”

  1. I definitely think reading tastes shift over time- especially cos we can tire of certain trends. I for one am finding I’m reading less YA (interesting point about all adults being portrayed as bad and teens as adults- I think that could be one of the things putting me off- cos I definitely feel more distanced to that as an adult). And yeah books are getting so much longer- especially in YA- which used to be much shorter. I do hear you about historical fiction as well. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I’m finding that I’m much more drawn to shorter, more light, funner reads lately – cozy murder mysteries and memoirs with a lot of humor – where there’s no obvious soapbox to just annoy me, nor pages and pages of unnecessary subplots and angst!

      Liked by 1 person

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