Jan 16, 2016

Books: What is Your Cup of Tea?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Have you ever read a book and endorsed it based on your own personal preference? Did you do that because you thought the subject matter was bad or the writing horrible or because "it just wasn't your cup of tea"? Book reviewers endorse or nix books on a daily basis but it seems to me that they must have some criteria beyond "personal preference". Surely that type of person must have a broad range of interests. I hope so because I depend on those people in a lot of cases.

Last night I had dinner with two women that love reading as much as I do. The subject of how we pick books and what will turn us away from something we thought might be good came up in the conversation. Two books that I had read were on the considered but dumped list. A personal friend had in both cases told the reader that the books were not worth the time it took to read them. You will be amazed at what the two books were.

The first was the Pulitzer Prize winning  The Goldfinch and the second was the runaway bestseller Gone Girl: the novel. I was truly surprised. Both of these books had gone through a great deal of scrutiny by people that judge books on the quality of the writing. And they were best sellers to the general public. They are two very different books and two very good books. It has to be all about taste.

The Goldfinch was a pulitzer prize winner recently so I chose to read it for that reason. It was not a simple read nor was it uplifting. But it was one of the most interesting reading journeys I have taken in a while. I struggled with the wordiness sometimes but it is my choice to skip over too much detail if I want.

I can honestly say that I would recommend it to a reader that likes unusual writing style and subject matter. But then I loved Wally Lamb's books.  Like The Goldfinch, I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone were not easy to read. I always thought Lamb's books spoke to the strength of the human spirit. I suppose The Goldfinch falls into that category.

But I know that I have an unusual reading list. My daughter always tells me to quit recommending those "strength of the human spirit" books. She doesn't like them.

As for Gone Girl, I love a good suspense novel and that one certainly got my interest to the point I almost forgot to get dressed for a couple of days. My daughter would have loved this one.

I have not read the Fifty Shades of Gray series, not because they are not wonderful books but they are not my cup of tea at all. I can't read anything Steven King...they scare me and I can't get those images out of my head after they are in there. I don't read romance novels because they don't keep my interest and Zane Grey was not my favorite. See what I mean about "personal likes and dislikes"? We each have our own style of reading.

Is there a point here? Well I suppose the dinner conversation taught me that my taste is not the same as others. My tolerance for some subject matter is different too. But most of all I am reminded that, while critics have their place, we need to make our own judgements.

So, what is on your list of good reads these days? I am very interested in what is new or even old out in the world.

b+

16 comments:

  1. Barbara, I think I read a lot of different things too, so much I kept forgetting what I read and started blogging my reviews, I may have told you this before. I'm not often wordy on my reviews, they are more reminders to myself what I liked and didn't. I didn't like Goldfinch because of its wordiness and I haven't read Gone Girl but I read Girl on the Train recently and enjoyed it. I read a lot of non-fiction too. http://roomswithwindows.blogspot.com/

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    1. I think your reaction to Goldfinch was similar to a lot of people. I don't know why I read those kind of books and come away thinking about what happened. I can't say I enjoy it but I do feel I have learned something about human nature. I suppose that is good.

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  2. I have a friend who is a voracious reader and one of the ways she chooses a book is when it's on sale, cheap, at BookBub! Fortunately, she is a fast reader and has other places to choose from also.

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    1. Life is too short to read "bad" books but then I don't read as fast as some people. I know a woman that read one book a night and then went blind. I can't imagine that she doesn't miss that part of her life. Books on tape are her go to now I think.

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  3. I loved both Gone Girl and Goldfinch. I read Fifty Shades of Grey -- meh. I'm reading SPQR by Mary Beard right now, a history of Rome.

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    1. Tom,

      Have you been to Rome? I always leave a place with the desire to read about it. I read Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving after we came home from Spain. It was so interesting because I could picture what he was talking about.

      I also read Driving Over Lemons. I loved that little book.

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  4. I love Sue Grafton's mysteries. I started with "A is for Alibi" and I just finished reading "W is for Wasted". I received her latest "X" for Christmas and that is my next read. I am a fan of non-fiction and always looking for good reads in that genre.

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    1. Don't miss the three books about the men that lead the Revolutionary war. Each book was written by a different author so they give different points of view of a lot of the same events; John Adams by David Mccullough, Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson, Thomas Jefferson, the Art of Power by Jon Meacham. The book by Doris Kearns Goodwin called No Ordinary Time about the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt during wwII is wonderful too.

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  6. I'm anxious to read The Goldfinch - after I finish my kitchen remodel :-) Listened to The Girl on the Train instead of reading it. Oh my, took forever, but was glad I did. Also loved The Devil in the White City:Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - best book I've read in a long time. Love murder mysteries and books in a series so you really get to know the characters. Love your blog - keep enjoying life!

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    1. Loved these ideas for good reads. Thank you.

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  7. Oh, books, there are so many good reads. I like a well-written book. I've read some bad books to the end. For some reason, I feel compelled to finish even the bad books. I have a friend who says life is too short to read bad books. I thought The Goldfinch was a well-written book. It was a gift chosen because it was on a bestseller list, as was The Girl on the Train. A good book is one that I have trouble putting down and can't wait to pick up again; so subjective. I read Fifty Shades of Grey to see what all the fuss was about and thought it was a poorly written book, critic that I'm not. I'm currently reading a Wally Lamb book - We Are Water, a multi-faceted story with many connections between the characters. Joseph Boyden writes good books - Through Black Spruce, Three Mile Road, Orenda. Some stellar books in my opinion: Elizabeth Berg's Talk Before Sleep, Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; JoJo Moyes' Me Before You - mostly books recommended by friends. A House In The Sky, written by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett was a good read, non-fiction. I often look at best seller lists, books by authors that I've read previously and look for books about family dynamics and I'm a sucker for the strength of the human spirit books.

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    1. Wow, I am adding this list to me reading list. Thank you so very much.

      Oh and I love a kindred "strength of the human spirit" reader. Thank you for that too.

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  8. Recently finished Hold Still, an autobiography of photographer Sally Mann. Alternately disturbing and thought provoking. Just started Invention of Wings, a human spirit type book so we'll see. I have no patience with mediocre books or movies. I no longer feel the need to eat my peas.

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    1. The list grow day by day. Thank you Jane.

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  9. This week seems to be "revisiting old friends" week for me - started with The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemming - this is the book upon which the marvelous movie with George Clooney was based, and although sometimes it can be a little dicey to go read a book after loving a movie (and vice versa), in this case I loved both of them. It's a great story that just resonates with my little forever-kama'aina (term for a non-Hawaiian Hawai'i local) heart, and I think I enjoyed it even more having watched the movie and then read the book not long after that - I think that the screenplay was so skillfully adapted from the book and it's fun seeing how the screenplay authors did that, you can really see things like what minor characters got rolled together to simplify things, and that's pretty neat (especially since they pulled that off without hurting the storytelling).

    Finished that reread yesterday, and as I was heading off to work this morning, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay caught my eye from the bookshelf and called out, "Hey, how about ME for your next book?"

    I ride the subway so I always have to have a good book for the commute, you see.

    I have not read The Goldfinch but I'm glad you reminded me of it, as various friends have recommended it highly!

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