The books we loathe

I love reading, but once in a while, I just can’t like any of it – the book, the story, the characters. I even begin to wonder a little about the author or the publisher sometimes. I know I’m not alone in this. People tell me about books they didn’t like almost as much as they tell me about books they loved.

A few weeks ago, one of the kids I see at school mentioned that he hated, and maybe even loathed, a book I’d put on a booklist. He said he knew of two other kids who hated it, too. Was I worried? Not really. I know he’s a reader, and he has strong opinions about books. I know he can talk for a half hour or more about all the intricacies of a book he loves, because he’s done it with me. Having strong opinions about a book just means that he’s been paying attention and thinking about it.

As we begin to know our reading tastes, I think we avoid even trying the things we think we won’t like. I can’t read horror novels – they give me bad dreams – which means that I don’t pick them up unless I’m really pushed. There are other genres I don’t read much, either, and I don’t usually feel bad about missing out on them. I don’t hate them, because they just aren’t for me, so I don’t go out of my way to read them.

The other day, though, a new book showed up in my stack. I’ve read great reviews of it. It’s been compared to other wildly popular books by people whose opinions I respect. I read about 80 pages of it and gave up. I don’t like the characters. I can recognize people I know in them, but I don’t want to read more about them.

Books don’t have to be “fun” for me to like them, but I don’t feel like spending the free time I have reading about these people. I spent over fifteen years working in the nonprofit social services world, and I have seen a lot of damaged and troubled people. I have seen REAL damaged and troubled people living their lives, making bad decisions, and hurting other people. I can’t read about it in fiction right now. It’s real enough to me already. I can see how other people might find this novel challenging or interesting or dramatic in the way that car accidents and train wrecks and other things are riveting if they’re not happening to you. But I don’t want to read it. I’ll move on to the next book.

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