Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writerly Wednesday: The Benefits of "Not for Me" Reading

life-long learning, writing, self-help, reading

Kind of by accident, I've read quite a few books lately that aren't really for me.  If we're thinking about the Auden adult reading scale, I'd rate these either "I can see this is good, but I don't like it" or "I can see this is good, and though at present I don't like it, I believe with perseverance I shall come to like it."  I'm happy I read these not-for-me selections, as I'll explain below, but I felt such a huge sense of relief this morning, as I turned the pages of a book that is just so 100% in my wheelhouse.

eligible, curtis sittenfeld

I like all of Sittenfeld's stuff, and her latest is a Pride and Prejudice retelling that features a reality television show akin to The Bachelor.  Flipping irresistible.  

The not-for-mes, then, are American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell, and Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey.  And so, what are the benefits of slogging through an imperfect fit?  I'll tell you right now:
  • It's easier to concentrate on craft - careful research, dynamite word choice, and creative plotting, in the case of the three titles I listed above - when you're not swept up by the story.  All of these writers are seriously skilled, and I could see what they were doing, even on the first pass.
  • I can connect with more readers, readers who might not like literary thrillers, contemporary fiction, and memoir.  Some of these readers are also my students, and obviously, it's super important to connect with them.  
  • I like to know things and be smart. Even if a book isn't for me, I find that after I read it, I generally have learned something, either from the reading itself or from obsessively googling the subject, the author, the reviews, and/or the creative process employed in writing it.  Then (and, ok, I'm not so proud of  this next part) I flaunt this new knowledge.  It's one of the joys and pitfalls of being a life-long learner.
So, if a book is "good" on the Auden scale, I'll finish it even if it's not for me.  If a book sucks, and it's not for me, I won't read it.  That seems reasonable.


mm said...

I think the third bullet explains my reading of A Brief History of Seven Killings.

LH said...

I like that Auden scale. I want to read this Sittenfeld book.