Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A day late and a dollar…

For various reasons, including time zones, I've never been able to coordinate myself enough to contribute to Beth's SB Day - a weekly celebration of all things reading. But yesterday she asked, "What don't you read?" which is a really interesting question.

For one thing, I can't find it in me to come up with a list. I read all the time, and can barely remember a time when I didn't. If desperate, or wondering about the right sort of thing, I could read almost anything. It doesn't mean I have to like it or even think I'll enjoy it or that it's good, but in the right frame of mind almost anything could be interesting, even if only for five minutes. So it's really hard to come up with something about a book that would put me off if I had absolutely nothing else to read, although in some cases it might have to be the last book in the world. Although the last book in the world? I might put off reading it forever. Just to have something to anticipate.

Oddly, the one thing that does put me off reading something I'd otherwise enjoy or find interesting is obligation. The minute I "have" to read something it becomes a chore, and one that I'll put off for as long as possible. I have struggled through official reading lists of core texts, while devouring the "further reading". I used to dread being set well-loved or interesting-looking books to read for a class, because being forced to read them could suck all the joy out what should have been a pleasure.

Incidentally, this is even true when it's me telling myself that I ought to read a book. In a way it's a lot like the way things are turning out at this blog. I had plans for what I intended to write about for the next couple of days, but find myself completely incapable of doing this now that I've made the fatal error and thought, "I should write about xyz." On the other hand, the right question or a fleeting thought will catch my interest and mushroom into something completely unexpected, like this post.

Just to round things off, here's a list of reasons why I decided not to buy various books recently. The trick here is to realise that they haven't put me off for good, but just for now. Because in the now, when I have lots of choice, I can be really picky.

Massive hype (fear of disappointment).
Hero sounds like a jerk.
Heroine sounds shallow.
Trying too hard to be "wacky".
Second in series and I haven't read the first one.
First one doesn't look as good as the second one.
Really liked another book by this writer, and worried this won't be as good.
Read a lot of this sort of thing lately and doesn't sound different enough.

Also when very young, I refused to ever re-read The Tale of Samuel Whiskers because the scene where the rats rolled Tom Kitten into roly-poly pudding gave me nightmares. I also refused to read Where the Wild Things Are because the picture on the cover scared me. Instead, I used to hide it where I would hopefully never come across it, like the bathroom cupboard behind mysterious, ancient and unused hair-taming equipment. Mind you, I think I'm over this by now.


fiveandfour said...

Oh boy EAP, I think you and I were separated at birth. "Obligation" reading is completely anathema to me as well. It goes even so far as me seeing a certain author is popular - I mean, really, really popular and there are 50 books and they're on the best seller list - and I'll think "Oh, no way am I reading anything by that person!" My logic is somewhere along the lines of hey, everyone's reading that which makes it sort of obligatory that I read it just to know what people are talking about. Even a whiff of obligation puts me off. Which is a shame because sometimes it means missing some good stuff (I mean, some things are popular for a reason.)

Really, this problem with obligation goes further than reading into other areas in my life (digging in my heels against certain social obligations, for example) and even when I feel the perversity of my reactions (or rather, the perversity of the reason for my reactions) I still can't help but balk.

As for what I won't read, there are some things I actively, purposefully won't read and some things I just don't have much interest in and a by product of that is that I don't read it even though, if it crossed my path at the right time and in the right way, I would read it (sci fi is an example of this). On the "Under No Circumstances" list are things in the military thriller genre and conservative rant books (a la Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh - I'm sure there are similar yokels in other parts of the world). Also, magazines like Guns 'n Ammo. I'd sooner sit down with a copy of the US Tax Code than seek these things out.

And I do the same thing with my blogging...I'll have some thoughts and think I should write about them because it would probably appeal to a greater number of people, then end up tucking all that away to address something completely inane or geeky or useless instead.

Anyway, the tune to Hakuna Mutate goes great with the words "It's my obligation free philosophy" and I invite you to sing along. But only if you really want to, because otherwise I know, if you're anything at all like me, you never will :-).

Karen Scott said...

The minute I "have" to read something it becomes a chore, and one that I'll put off for as long as possible.

This is just sooo true! I love reading, but the minute anybody asks me to read a book, and review it, then it becomes a big old pain in the rectum. I currently have about six book review requests still waiting for me. I just can't be arsed to read them. It's not even that they are bad books, it's just that I know that I 'have' to read them, which just puts me off totally.

Hype is another major one for me. There are certain beloved authors that I just can't bring myself to read, as well as certain books.

I've had the Da Vinci Code in my TBR pile for over a year and a half now. That sucker wont be read anytime in the next five years, guaranteed.

Trying too hard to be wacky is another reason not to read a book. I don't get wacky, I never have, which is probably why me and MJD's Undead series will never become acquainted. (And incidentally, I got the buggers free too!)

By the way, your word verification thingy is SQWOPATS, just thought I'd mention it, hehe.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

fiveandfour, I might sing along, but only if it's a casual suggestion that anyone is free to take up or ignore. I'm with you on the way it spills into everything in life, too.

Karen, SQWOPATS - heheheh indeedy. I only ever get random consonants. I'm another one of the DaVinci Code avoiders. Maybe in a decade or two.

Ginny said...

Hi there! As someone who has read the Da Vinci Code, I can assure you all, you're not missing anything!(I was stuck on a Maldivian Island and the only other books were Dutch; and yes, I did have a go at them first!)
However, in the lists of what not to read, I should suggest that Haynes car manuals should not be read - ever! They are not even boring enough to be funny - really!

EvilAuntiePeril said...

Hey Gins, thanks for stopping by. But have to ask, what if it was a choice between the DVC in Dutch, or a Haynes car manual?

Mind you, they always say foreign language study is good for the mind...