Confession of a recovering book snob

jean-baptiste-camille_corot_-_the_reader_wreathed_with_flowers_virgils_muse_-_wga5288In college, I lost interest for contemporary novels and started reading almost exclusively classics. You know… books published over 20 years ago that we still remember have proven their worth. They’re “a safe bet”. A sound investment of my limited reading time.

It might be because I’m hypersensitive, but when I finish a book feeling disappointed in it and thinking I’ve lost precious time that’ll never come back, it can ruin my day. I read a lot, but I read slowly, almost like I’m trying to memorize every line. I analyze things as I go. That’s how I enjoy my reading time. I won’t speed read to save time. And my to-read pile of books is ever-growing.

However, I also enjoy reading “amateur” stories on Wattpad. Though generally not anywhere near professionally edited, some of those books catch my attention and when I succeed in disregarding the mistakes, they entertain me a lot. They’re often “raw”, uncensored, right from the writer’s mind. It has its charms.

Best of all, everything’s free and you can see right away whether a story is popular or not almost regardless of the author’s marketing abilities. I don’t want to sound like a sheep who only goes for the popular things, but on a platform like Wattpad, popularity usually means one of two things: 1) the story distinguished itself by its quality or 2) it’s full of fan service (smut). I avoid smut because I don’t like it, so in my own experience, most of the time a popular story on Wattpad is a story of decent quality, so my chances of liking it are quite high.

And then, there’s the “middle ground”: indie and self-published books (hereafter referred to as self-published books). The few of them I’ve tried, I got for free and… frankly I’d rather read stories on Wattpad. At least their authors don’t pretend to be “best-selling authors” and the good ones are easier to find.

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Unfortunately, the overabundance of self-published beginner work (and by beginner, I mean straight out “immature” writing, not just any debut novel) on Amazon have made me prejudiced against all self-published books. Surely, there’s a way to find self-published books that I would enjoy, I just haven’t quite figured out a good way to do it yet. Kirkus Reviews gave me hope, but finding a self-published book whose author spent big bucks to get a Kirkus Review (and then deemed the review good enough to allow them to publish it) is hard. I did try the reverse strategy: looking at “indie reviews” to find a blurb that caught my attention, but that’s also hard. Maybe I’m just hard to please.

I feel like I must persevere though. I want to give a chance to my contemporary authors. I want to find “gems”. But I’ll do it one step at a time. One thoroughly vetted book at a time.

9This means two things: 1) I will try to read “less known” books, but they still might be more or less best-sellers in their categories; and 2) among those, I’ll only write a full review the ones I enjoyed – I don’t believe in demolishing a book couldn’t enjoy in a review (not even NYT best-sellers).

When the month ends and I’ve failed to read a contemporary book I’ve found interesting, I might review a classic that, in my opinion, is underrated. If you insist on knowing what book I’ve read and not enjoyed, I rate everything I read on Goodreads (I’m a fairly new member there, so there’s not a lot yet) with, possibly, a short review explaining why that particular book didn’t work for me.

I’m leaving you on this quote that I find so true in my case:

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
– Mary Ann Shaffer

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33 thoughts on “Confession of a recovering book snob

  1. I understand….I have read all of the books on most of the top 100 books of all times list. I love beautiful prose and intense contemplations of life woven into stories. Recently, I started writing a memoir about my near death experience, and I’ve started writing it in a straight-forward way instead of using the language I deeply admire from Tolstoy, Kafka, and others. I do want to go the traditional route and find a publisher simply because there are so many badly written self-published materials out there. For now, I am lost in the world of writing and looking at other memoirs similar to mine. I will return to poetry and the classics soon:-) Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should really find some good memoirs to read, I think I’d like them.

      I enjoy plain and straight-forward writing. There are plenty of masterpieces written that way: sometimes, the best way to tell a good story is the simplest.

      I think whenever I’m ready to publish, I’ll try the traditional route too and if I can’t… Sharing my stories on Wattpad (or a similar platform) seems the best option.

      I also tend to read stuff relating to whatever I’m writing; often non fiction for research, but also books with similar themes, characters, plot, etc. I think it’s a good way to go. ^_^

      Good luck on your memoir and thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hey ! Ida… this is a vry long article you hve hre… i feel vry srry tht i couldnot read it all
    ..coz i hve lots of h. w. to do.. hehe.. but i totally agree wid ur read slowly theory.. i too luv that.. n sometyms really wish tht i could just read novels whole day…. but apparntly thts not pssble.;(
    nice work.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can identify! Finding worthwhile e-books has been a serious quest for me, too. I’ve taken risks in purchasing and have read a lot that are quite poorly done — either the plot is incredible (in the negative sense) or the MC is obnoxious or it’s simply poorly edited/vetted.

    One of my biggest beefs is that many writers do historical fiction from a Y2K mindset — they don’t grasp that people’s whole framework of thinking was different back in the days before TV, sit-coms, our sex-obsessed society, effective birth control, political correctness, etc.

    I’d encourage you to persevere. I’ve encountered some really good books in the lot. If I knew what genre you like to read I could maybe suggest a few. But I’m not at all familiar with Wattpad — will have to look this up. (As if I need yet more to read. 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I get what you mean, about historical fiction. I came to avoid it because I simply cannot get in the story; I cannot get past the sociological anachronisms. They could be daring and wild and avant-garde in their own ways, there is no necessity to make them so in our ways.

      I will persevere! I know those gems I’m looking for exist; I only need to find them.

      If you want to make a few suggestions, I read about everything except horror, erotica and tear-jerkers (not a genre, but anyway). Chick lit needs to be particularly good though and I dislike “smut” romances (while I adore Jane Austenesque romances).

      If that’s too vague, well… In all genres, I tend to be most attracted to those books who have “psychological, sociological or philosophical value”. Books that will make me contemplate people’s nature, growth, differences, relationships, etc. When characters “change” as they grow up/old, when they are different in some way (LGBT+, people from other times/cultures, people with mental or physical illnesses that impact their lives).

      Like

  4. I’m all over the place- contemporary, Classics, medieval lit, non-fiction, mythology. You name it, I’ve read it. I try not to read things because they are or are not on specific list; I don’t want to miss out on a book because a certain famous listing happens to have it. I also have finally begun putting down a book I’m not enjoying instead of forcing myself to finish it. My unease of leaving it unfinished is far better than hating what I am reading and feeling angry after. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can relate! I recently decided that it was okay not to finish a book I can’t enjoy, but I still find it hard to put into practice. I think it’s part of why I tend to favour Wattpad over self-pub: I don’t feel “guilty” to start reading something there and abandoning it if I don’t enjoy it. I’ll need some more practice before I truly “come to peace” with abandoning books.

      Like

    • One book I think you’d really like is The Workroom Girls by Catherine Clifton Clark. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the Victorian times. It’s an interesting glimpse into the very different lives of several young women who work together. It’s a “clean” romance where the heroine goes against her father’s choice, runs away from her privileged life and must earn her own way, so she can marry the musician she loves.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What an interesting experience. I’ve felt this too on occasion but it seems like I can’t read books fast enough. Hopefully you can find something satisfying to read soon! I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another writer you will probably like, if you haven’t discovered her already, is D E Stevenson, an English writer who lived in the early 1900s. Her books are available as e-books now. I’ve read Listening Valley and The Four Graces The first is a book about a girl, later wife, then widow who lived before and through WWII. The second is about a country parson and his four daughters, their last name being Grace. While there is romance in both books — the girls get married — their minds and their lives are quite sensible. No immoral or erotic scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a great read – something I identified with, but in a different way. I used to only “exclusively” read classics, maybe with the hope that my IQ would automatically go up, or that I’d be seen as “the intellectual” by peers? Whatever my logic was, I’m glad I stopped now. I’ve gone back to reading fantasy and mythology for the most part – what I used to love as a child, I can now appreciate even more as an adult. I still read classics, naturally, because they’re classics for a reason – but now I’m focusing on reading them thoroughly and understanding them better, instead of blankly flipping through them for the sake of reading.

    On a side note, this is a beautiful blog! Looking forward to reading new posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Haha, yes there is this idea surrounding classics that people who read them are particularly intellectual (or even pedantic). In high school, because the very few classics I read back then were French and not of the best kind (Nobel prices alright, but not interesting *at all* for teenagers – think The Stranger), I felt like classics lovers just patted themselves in the back for having read the slowest and most confusing novels one could find, haha. But then I discovered English literature: Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens. I found “better” French classics too (though I’m still somewhat prejudiced against it). And Don Quixote among the Spanish classics.

      In the end those aren’t so much aimed at “intellectuals”, I mean… how many of Dicken’s work has been adapted as comics for children? I remember thoroughly enjoying an animated movie adaptation of David Copperfield as a child. They’re just amazingly well-written stories with strong themes that survived through time.

      I love fantasy too! I used to read almost exclusively fantasy. The best I’ve read lately is Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice (loved it!) and now I have The Fionavar Tapestry waiting for me somewhere. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes indeed, English literature is what got me started too! I totally agree, some of Dickens’ work is perfect for children – my personal favourite was Oliver Twist. That might also be because of the numerous catchy musical renditions though, haha.

        Thank you for the fantasy recommendations, I’ve been wanting something to read after my current book! I’m reading The Name of the Wind right now – since you’re a fantasy lover, this one might be right up your alley!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi ! I came across your post in community pool and decided to visit your blog.
    Honestly, I totally agree in your last point. When I have finished reading book which totally captivated me, the next other book I’m gonna to read have to be better than the previous one. It really has to exceed my expectations, or at least, on the same level as previous book. If not, I feel the same thing as you, it is really time consuming.
    I think you will be a great reviewer, since you are quite thorough while reading books. Great post, and keep up for reading more !

    P.S. If you don’t mind, please visit my blog and give feedback, thanks a lot, have a good day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey. Nice one. I guess not many people like reading non-popular books and I respect that about you. I just started reading full time a few months ago. Anyway, I am a new member in WordPress and I was wondering if you will read my posts and leave a comment on how it is or where I can improve. I am a rookie and I need to get better. All the comments and help is appreciated. Thanks.

    URL: https://everythingdoesmatter.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

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