In 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.
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.
This 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