Here is the question–Have your book tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?
And here is my answer–I think our book tastes definitely change to fit our maturity level. They also change to fit how we perceive ourselves and the world. We all have preferences that start early on and last throughout our lives, for instance, I’d much rather read horror than mystery, and I greatly prefer science fiction/fantasy over romance. The thing about genre fiction is that I rarely read science fiction or horror anymore. I read so much of it when I was younger that I think I’m pretty much burned out on it. As it stands now, a newly published horror or s/f novel has to seem really extraordinary before I will pick it up and read it.
I’m going to approach this task chronologically, starting with adolescence, since kids books are difficult to categorize. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started getting into coming-of-age fiction when I was in the 5th grade, and I still enjoy a good coming-of-age tale, almost more than anything else. I think I like these novels for several reasons:
- I haven’t grown up yet and am still trying to “find myself” (ugh).
- I need the emotional release that tearjerker coming-of-age novels provide.
- They fit into my personal philosophy of life—you may have to scrabble and fight for fulfillment and freedom, but eventually your persistence will pay off.
My favorites are A Separate Peace, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and The Catcher in the Rye. Out of these three, I’ve reread A Separate Peace the most, and the ending makes me cry every time. There is a particular paragraph at the end of A Separate Peace that I think is one of the best paragraphs ever written in any novel. I’m not going to say what it is, though, because I may want to post about it later!
In middle school, I got into horror in a big way, and the gorier, the better. This makes perfect sense because puberty and all that it entails is one big horrorfest anyway. Is there anything more terrifying than being 13 or 14 and feeling like you just slithered out of a sideshow tent? When I was in the 8th grade, my science teacher confiscated my copy of The Exorcist during class and wouldn’t return it.
This made me so angry (I felt like I was possessed) that I threw a microscope into one of the lighting fixtures, shattering it. Luckily, the microscope survived. I think my Dad was more annoyed about the book confiscation than he was about having to pay for the fixture. He was cool that way. Some of my other favorite middle-school horror novels were:
In high school, I started getting into adult science fiction and fantasy big time. I’m pretty sure this is a developmental thing. Our brains are finally ready to assimilate some of the scientific and imaginative speculation of sci fi and fantasy. In addition to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I had been reading off and on for years, I also got into this series:
And this series:
I think I read practically everything Orson Scott Card published, and Ender’s Game remains one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time. Also, I was saddened to hear of Arthur C. Clarke’s death a couple of months ago, because this novel is pretty amazing, and very, very moving:
I read it in my senior year, and I still remember how it made me feel.
While I’ve kind of wandered away from genre fiction, there are some sub-genres that I continue to keep up with. One is post-apocalyptic fiction. Some of the best novels I’ve read in this area are:
This newer end-of-the-world series is terrific as well:
I also continue to enjoy dystopic fiction. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go, this novel is quite well-written and thoughtful:
At the moment, I tend to prefer contemporary fiction, and I like the sad stuff. It doesn’t really matter if the novel is easy or hard, as long as the prose sings to me in some way. There are three things I look for in a novel—plot development, character development and the writing skill of the author. If one of these elements is below par, then the novel just doesn’t cut it for me. I’ll read anything fictional as long as it doesn’t include cruelty to animals. I can find value in a novel filled with the most graphic sex and violence if these elements are written well and fit into the plot. I don’t do self-help and I rarely do non-fiction. I have decalred a moratorium on memoirs because I’m tired of trying to figure out what is real and what is “memorex.”
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. Leave me a comment if you so desire. I’d love to hear what you have to say about your tastes. I think one of the most fascinating things about blogging is learning about my fellow bloggers’ reading experiences.