In 2020 I vowed that I would only read what I really felt drawn and connected to, and if that meant deciding not to finish books simply because I just didn’t feel an attachment to it, then so be it. But I didn’t realize how hard it would be, and what it would mean for my reading identity (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I mean).
It’s natural that we won’t absolutely LOVE every book we read. Or at least, that’s how I feel. Some books make us think, some books take the pressure off our brains from long days at work, some books make us feel, and some books just stay with us forever. I have always been an eclectic reader, jumping from contemporary lit, to YA fantasy, to the occasional thriller, and sometimes diving into historical fiction. But as of late, I have found that my heart is not sitting as comfortably in some of these categories any longer.
YA fantasy, the YA genre in general is, basically, just not doing it for me any more. While yes, I enjoy some of the books I read in this genre, I find there are always things I just can’t stand. I can always fault a YA book, due to personal preference (I am not shitting on YA, I promise). Ultimately for me, stories about 16 -17 year olds really don’t hit the mark for me any longer. I find the characters are annoying, the stories lack depth, everything feels forced and I am always left wanting more (okay it sounds like I’m shitting on YA). This realization made me quite sad in honesty. I want to enjoy these books, I want to succumb to the hype and be able to gush about sexy faerie villains who are always changed by that one “different” girl, but I really just can’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I owe a lot to the YA genre, it is what started my reading when I myself was a young adult, but in 2019 I read so many books that, to me, felt more complex, more thoughtful, more meaningful. Perhaps my reading is a mere reflection of my life? As my life transitions into a new phase for me, perhaps I now need stories that reflect that. Rather than books that have a magical happily ever after. I have always felt that stories that end in a perfect package with a bright bow on top are underwhelming because a story cannot simply just end perfectly, in both real life and fiction. I have always craved the sense of continuation from a book, the feeling that a story COULD continue regardless of a reader's presence. Or better yet, when I feel as though I have stepped into someone’s life and I am an omniscient presence to the ongoings. I have dipped into a series of different novels over the last few days and I have realized that LIFE is what I crave. I like stories that feel raw, and somewhat mundane in a sense? I want a story to feel like it could be my life; I don’t really think it is overly that important but to outsiders looking in there is always so much more to know and learn. Perhaps it’s the voyeur in me? I once read a quote in a Stephen King book, “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” I think everyone can take from that what they will, but to me, the normalcy of a story as a foundational element is something special and takes a true talent to be able to completely capture all the nuances of life. So perhaps that is why I am feeling less inclined to commit my reading time to fantasy stories? Perhaps I’m cynical, and I know that I’m being too harsh a judge but there is a feeling of dissatisfaction that is all too apparent in my reading lately.
Maybe I feel this way because the books I’m picking up have been on my TBR for at least a year, maybe because I feel obligated to read these books that have been collecting dust? Who knows, but all I can say is that even when I do pick them up, I am feeling bored, unsatisfied and almost forcing myself to continue. So now, I must come to terms with this change in my reading. It means having to branch out. But to where? Now, this is the fun part, who knows what gems I may stumble across.
Since my realization I have been picking up books that I have been staring at wondering “when is the right time for you?” and well, it is now. Long ago bought books can be intimidating but I picked them especially for a reason and I am so glad to be getting to them now. Some books in particular include: What I Love by Siri Hustvedt, Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Now, while these books seem quite different I think the underlying theme I am getting from them is that they all explore a process of self-discovery, a deeper understanding and recognition of self.
So on that note, please drop your recommendations in the comments below, because I am lost and looking for a book to find myself in.