Thursday, August 12, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Evolving Reading Tastes

I spotted this meme over at the Should Be Reading blog:

Have your reading choices changed over the years? Or pretty much stayed the same?

They are not talking about differences between childhood and adulthood, but the reading choices that you make in adulthood. I do plan to comment a bit on my reading choices in my later elementary, middle, and high school years and how they evolved into some of my adult choices and then how my tastes have (or have not) changed.

In my later elementary years, I was hooked on the Hardy Boys series. I loved to follow Joe and Frank and all their sleuthing adventures. I basically loved any other book that involved a nice light mystery, although I never really read Nancy Drew. My brothers had owned some of the Hardy Boys series so I started with them and never really switched to Nancy. In fact, one of my classmates (who died earlier this week) was collecting the Hardy Boys books and often loaned his copies to me to read. As an adult, this love for the light mystery developed into a love of the cozy mystery. It's still one of my favorite genres -- but only if it is well-written. There are so many new cozy series that are developing right now that just are not that interesting or well-written. I guess that you could say that I'm more discriminating in series and know that I can't possibly read them all so I only read the ones which really appeal to me.

Beginning in middle school and lasting throughout high school, I developed a strong love for the "romantic suspense" genre. Some were marketed as "Gothic" novels, but the ones I really liked did not have (or at least I didn't notice) connections to the Occult. Most involved a woman who ended up at a country estate (or larger somewhat historic home). There would be something strange and life-endangering and the heroine would be both attracted to and frightened of a man whom she thought might be the one behind the problem. The first book I read in this genre was Phyllis Whitney's Window on the Square. I believe I was in about the fifth grade when I stumbled upon this book. I began reading other books by Whitney. Then I discovered Victoria Holt and others who wrote similar books. I checked them all out of our public library. This was back in the days when you signed the book cards. I used to looks for certain names on the cards to know if I might like the book. This genre has almost disappeared (or at least I only see a handful of books in the review sources). In my adulthood, I think this particular taste evolved into books (especially mysteries) that were set in English country estates and even into books that evoked English village life. (I think I enjoyed the setting the most about the romantic suspense books.)

During high school, especially during the summer months, I received huge quantities of Harlequin and Silhouette romances that had their covers removed. I know now that these had been reported as being destroyed, but I was a voracious reader, and it kept me occupied. I would often read two a day. I never was a huge fan of the romance, but I loved the settings -- Greek Islands, coastal locations in the U.S., Hawaii, etc. As an adult, I rarely read the romance. I'm not even a huge fan of "chick lit." What I do enjoy is a good travel narrative! I also enjoy reading books set in a variety of places.

Now, let's take a look at some of my reading tastes as an adult. In my early adult years, I read a vast amount of Christian fiction. It was a fairly new genre at the time, because prior to that most Christian fiction was a somewhat fictionalized biography of some Biblical character. I guess that I had read Eugenia Price books in high school, but I really think the birth of Christian fiction as a genre occurred with the publishing of Janette Oke's books. I used to read lots of Christian fiction books, but I got tired of them. It was the same formula over and over, and for many of them, the incorporation of the plan of salvation at the end of the book seemed rather forced. I won't say that I've entirely given up the genre, because there is an occasional Christian writer who writes well. If a plot sounds like something I would enjoy, I might give the author a try, but I'm not likely to give them a second chance if the writing does not measure up. It's just not a genre that I frequently read.

As far as mysteries go, I am much more diverse in my reading. I still don't really like hard-boiled novels, but I do like police procedurals as much as the cozy featuring the amateur sleuth. In recent years, I've begun to really enjoy some of the Scandinavian mysteries that are increasing in popularity with American readers. British ones are among my favorites.

I've always had a love for history. As an adult that love has increased. I read far more true histories now than historical novels as I did several years ago. I guess I'd rather make sure that the facts are there and properly documented!

I've also become more adventurous in my reading. Part of this is because a friend and I regularly exchange books. She has introduced me to some wonderful authors, and I've introduced her to some as well. The two of us decided to participate in some of the LibraryThing challenges. To complete some of the challenges, we are stretching our boundaries and discovering books that we otherwise would never have discovered. We both discovered a wonderful Canadian book called Mrs. Mike that is reminiscent of some of the prairie romances that are set in America. We've discovered other Canadian authors that we would not have discovered otherwise. The Europe Endless challenge encourages us to find a book set in every European country. We're really stretching in the boundaries here! Do you know how difficult it is to find books set in some of the smaller countries? The 1010 challenge encouraged us to read 10 books in 10 different categories for 2010. I have enjoyed this challenge and the discoveries of new authors. One of my categories is "Caribbean." I've read or will read books by authors such as Michelle Cliff, Jamaica Kincaid, and Andrea Levy that I otherwise might not have discovered.

I've discovered that I like diversity in my reading. I've got a huge to be read pile of to-be-read books with Asian (including some of the Asian Middle Eastern countries). I'm making Asia one of my categories in 2011. I had gotten turned off by mysteries featuring archaeologists a few years ago. (It was probably the presence of one snake too many. I really don't even remember now.) However, I've rediscovered these, and I have a lot of catching up to do. Many of these are some of the better-written mysteries out there.

So, yes, my reading has evolved over the years, but it has also stayed the same. I just have a more mature reading pattern that involves books written at more mature levels as well as those that are more "fluff."

1 comment:

David A. Bedford said...

I have always read all kinds of literature. Lately I have really enjoyed Umberto Eco's novels and Mary Stewart's novelizations of the Arthurian legends. I keep coming back to Dorothy Sayers' mysteries. What I have come to think is that what makes a book Christian is that the author is a beliver. Please visit my blog and leave a comment. Thanks!