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Yes, Our Reading Perspectives Do Change Over Time

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On a totally separate note, I just discovered that the “new WordPress editor” is a thing.

Ahem.

Pardon me for a second while I run around screaming.

Okay, it turns out that the program itself isn’t awful to use. (So far, it seems…) It’s just that I have a very strong aversion to sudden change out of my control. That’s why I really like to control change when I can.

Hey, that ended up leading very well into the topic of this post.

A long while ago, I wrote a post about how our expectations or hopes for what we get from reading can — and often do — change either with our age or after certain experiences in our lives. I definitely feel I’m coming up to a new stage in this area.

After I also wrote a post about how it’s totally acceptable for adults to read YA fiction…here I am, wondering if I can really carry on reading YA fantasy.

And, yes, I do believe this has to do with the fact I’m now over 40. Because, although I write YA-appropriate fantasy myself, I am growing increasingly frustrated and/or bored by plotlines that revolve around love triangles during the fall of the oppressive empire.

But, I still get frustrated and/or bored by adult fiction that focuses too much on gory murder mysteries unrealistically solved within two days, or fluffy insta-romances between physically perfect people with dream jobs and all the latest tech.

So, the question doesn’t just become, What do I read next?, but also, What am I really looking for in a book?

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Since the pandemic meant I was without access to a library for at least 2 months, I was forced to re-evaluate my reading habits earlier this year. I found affordable bargains on series I’d started but never finished, for whatever reason, and worked my way through them. And when I came to the end of that journey, I realized that my reading tastes have really altered.

I used to be a big content avoider. Trigger warnings were my speciality. I didn’t want to read depictions of abuse, graphic violence, or explicit explanations of trauma. But just this week, I finished “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi, a novel that centered heavily on the narrator’s loss of a sibling due to drug overdose and her mother’s depression. It’s a heavy read, not much comic relief, and there are several long passages of deep reflection in each chapter. It takes determination to finish. And yet, I don’t regret reading it.

I’m also becoming more willing to try “timely topic” novels, which in the past I have avoided like the plague, because I don’t want an agenda (of any sort) shoved down my throat while I’m trying to enjoy a story. But I did find “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett very interesting, despite its long-winded digressions throughout many of the chapters, creating a number of subplots in what, on the surface, is supposed to be about a light-skinned black woman who decides to pass for white in the 1970s. Whereas before I’d be skimming or outright skipping large chunks of such a novel, to get back to the “actual premise,” in this case, I thought the subplots were more engaging — and they were big on conversations about race and gender and how different things were in the mid 20th century from now. Very “hot button,” and I wasn’t instantly turned off.

I also seem to have developed more tolerance for books that meander and don’t get to the point right away. Even 6 weeks ago, if I couldn’t get into a title before page 25, I tended to just put it down and not bother again. Lately, I’ve really been stopping myself from DNF-ing. Partly because I have actually discovered the value in pushing forward and enjoying at least half of the book. But also because I want to spend my reading time as something relaxing, to be savored, no goals to meet, no rushing.

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I’m also realizing I care less and less about what new releases are tapped to be super hot. It’s almost the reverse of jumping into the hype. I’ve been terribly disappointed by almost every single “you have to read this!!!” title I’ve picked up since 2018. Either the characters were all stereotypes, the plot recycled from other books/movies that did it better, or I just didn’t care for the writing style (purple prose, all show and no tell, and dozens of pages of unnecessary text are my worst enemies). And these trends have seemed to run rampant in publishing (at least in the genres I prefer) recently. So now, even if millions of other people are raving about it, I’m just going to be, “you do you, folks,” and not count on said title blowing me away.

Right on the heels of that is the fact I’m no longer putting much stock in others’ recommendations. Not that I want people to stop sharing their new favorites and promoting them — not at all! But I’ve accepted that I just am a finnicky reader, and while I’ll certainly continue to read others’ reviews, I’m not going to add every single new hyped release to my TBR. This attitude is actually quite freeing (for my wallet, too!).

But the downside to this is that I could quickly run out of new possibilities. So I’ve promised myself not to be too hard on authors I tried once and didn’t really hit it off with. I won’t shell out unlimited opportunities, but if their first book didn’t do it for me, maybe their second — or even third! — will. Even our favorite authors sometimes produce a work that misses our personal mark. So, I figure only allowing an acclaimed writer an hour of my time isn’t quite fair.

Well, that does it for me this time around! What about you? Have you noticed your reading preferences and goals change over time?

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2 thoughts on “Yes, Our Reading Perspectives Do Change Over Time”

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