A few points of follow up from last week’s post. I don’t work as an editor or do anything really that uses my English degrees; I work at a small insurance company that primarily provides workers compensation for construction companies. I’m also no longer living in Smalltown, Texas (Coleman). Scott and I only lasted about 7 months before packing up and moving to Dallas, where I grew up. We’ve been living here for a year and a half. Funny how things work out.
I think a lot of you can relate when I say that I know more non-readers than readers. And even most of the readers I know aren’t quite as crazy about books as I am. I have never really been able to understand why some people enjoy reading more than others. I think some feel that reading is a chore or that it takes too much work. For my husband it is a little bit of both–he is dyslexic and struggles to the point of frustration. It is difficult for me to come to terms with this sometimes, and I have to be as understanding as I can. I truly believed that readers are simply wired differently than nonreaders.
Because I know so many non-readers, I’m always getting questions about how I choose my books or what I’m currently reading. Most of the time these questions are, unfortunately, rhetorical–questions of politeness or conversation. And then there are those who scoff at my yearly numbers–most times I don’t tell people how much I read. And frankly, you all read a heck of a lot more than I do!! And then, finally, there are those who take a look at my book list and comment on the weird, obscure books that I read. Commenting that I read things that go way over people’s heads.
Not true, I scream in protest! Sure my bookshelves are lined with classics and literature, nonfiction and world fiction, but as much as I try to read those types of genres, I still have to work myself up to pulling them off the shelf. Every single time. I don’t think I’ll ever pull Austen or Dickens off the shelf without some type of apprehension. Cold sweat is more like it. Russian authors are sure to put me into immediate panic mode. Books over 500 pages? Sheesh–I usually leave those to collect dust for years. I still buy them hoping that one day I’ll have the courage to open them up and dive in, but I have to admit that I am an intimidated reader.
After my cousin posted a comment on my recent Picoult post about the nature of books that I read, I got to thinking about what I do read and my constant intimidation. If I had to pinpoint what exactly it is about these books that intimidates me, I’m not sure that I could do it. My copy of Les Miserables is over 1200 pages–about three weeks of reading for me. Other than short stories here and there I haven’t read enough Russian literature to even begin to know why it is intimidating. Classics are a little daunting–the language and writing is sometimes antiquated and difficult to follow. Nonfiction is sometimes dry and overloaded with information.
Why do I read them, you ask? First, I usually end up enjoying these types of books despite my trepidation. And second, I thrive on being challenged. As much as I bitch and moan about a book being too difficult or whine about the reading taking me too long, I love the complexity found in the books that intimidate me the most. I guess hard work pays off? Something like that. And not always…as I’m sure you’ve experienced for yourself.
Some of the books on my shelf that I’m too intimidated to read but hope to work up the courage one day:
*Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky
*Middlemarch – Elliot
*Satanic Verses – Rushdie (even though I loved Midnight’s Children)
*Les Miserables – Hugo
*Vanity Fair – Thackeray
*The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana – Eco
*East of Eden – Steinbeck
*Underworld – DeLillo
*Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky (Man–those Russians!)
*Ahab’s Wife – Naslund
Have you read any of these? Can you give me good solid reasons not to be intimidated?
I could ramble on if I let myself, but I’m out of steam. Plus after last week’s near essay length post, I’ll keep this one shortish. I guess in short I try to read a little bit of everything–from different genres to different authors to different time periods. But, I’ve never been strong in literary criticism or being able to pick apart a book on my own to truly understand everything. I have to work at these things. And sometimes I’m up for the task, but a lot of times I’m not. A lot of times my courage wins the battle, but often enough the scaredy cat in me lets those books sit on the shelf for far too long. And in the end there usually is not a whole lot of real basis for my intimidation. Not sure that intimidation is going away anytime soon. One day, though, I hope to kick its butt.
So my questions for you–What intimidates you in the world of reading? Do you avoid those books altogether or muster up the courage and plow through? Are you a fearless reader who tackles anything and everything in sight? Are there certain genres that you avoid like the plague?
Happy Sunday and thanks for visiting! Next week’s Salon–10 reasons you must join the read-a-thon.