I’m a literary omnivore.
I read a range of things (see a list of some picks). My to-be-read pile has a very eclectic mix:
Those Who Hunt By Night – Barbara Hambly
Fear Unnamed – Tim Lebbon
The Passage – Justin Cronin
They Thirst – Robert McCammon
The Mothers – Vardis Fisher
The Disappearance – Philip Wylie
Distress – Greg Egan
Earth Abides – George R. Stewart
11/22/63 – Stephen King
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Time After Time – Jack Finney
The Conquest of Gaul – Julius Caesar
The Civil War – Julius Caesar
Scipio Africanus – B.H. Liddell Hart
The Landmark Thucydides – Robert B. Strassler
The Landmark Herodus – Robert B. Strassler
Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
Masters of the Air – Donald L. Miller
D-Day – George E. Koskimaki
Hell’s Highway – George E. Koskimaki
The Battered Bastards of Bastogne – George E. Koskimaki
A Blood-Dimmed Tide – Gerald Astor
June 6, 1944 – Gerald Astor
The Return of Little Big Man – Thomas Berger
Past Worlds: Atlas of Archaeology – Collin Renfrew
I began reading a lot in kindergarten, and early in elementary school my mother would accompany me to the county public library because her adult card allowed her to check out more books than my kid’s card did.
I read much of my elementary school’s library across a range from Encyclopedia Brown to biographies of people like Charles Proteus Steinmetz, Edgar Allan Poe to Damon Runyon, Mark Twain to Judy Blume.
I remember when I was in third grade I would read my mother’s Harlequin Romance novels when I ran out of something to read.
I’ve continued the variety into adulthood.
One thing that any reader and writer is faced with is taste. No one knows what sparks someone’s taste buds, exciting them with the flavors they’re experiencing. And what resonates with one person can fall flat with another. Doesn’t mean the story sucks. It just means it didn’t strike the right notes.
I’m aware when I run across issues with plotting, cliches, awkward dialogue, etc. But to be honest – none of that has ever been an impediment to a book catching fire with an audience. Many bestsellers have fallen under criticism for less-than-award-winning writing. Bridges of Madison County had lines like, “You’re big-time elegant, Francesca, in the purest sense of that word.” Twilight has faced criticism from even Stephen King.
Personally, I don’t give a crap and try to stay out of that kind of thing.
I like it when people read. I especially like it when they read my own work – and enjoy it. But I think it’s great for anyone to discover what it is that sets their imagination aflame when they read a particular work. The two books I just mentioned did that. Maybe not for everyone, but they did what their authors wanted and did it to a phenomenal degree.
I think I’m sort of an anti-snob snob.
I don’t like being told what I should or should not enjoy. My tastes are my own. When I don’t like something, I can usually articulate what it is that didn’t appeal to me, or at least what my response was. But I don’t consider my opinion to mean that something sucks.
For instance, comedians. I don’t find Kristen Wiig funny. I wish that weren’t so, as she’s currently enjoying a lot of popular success and it’s always nice to be part of the wave. But I’ve just never laughed at any of the skits or clips I’ve seen her in. But then, I also didn’t find fellow SNL alums Will Farrell or Chevy Chase funny to any degree, either. It’s not the deadpan delivery. Phil Hartman was as deadpan as they came and I found him extremely funny. But I suppose I also don’t often find the over-the-top comedians quite so funny, either, as it usually feels like they’re trying too hard for my attention. I’ve still liked comedians like Chris Rock, Adam Sandler (on SNL at least), Robin Williams, Bill Hicks, and a number of others. Taste is just something that’s individual to anyone. And again, it doesn’t mean that if I don’t like one, they suck.
I don’t care for people trying to insist on the *right* way to eat something. I think humans have pretty much figured out the eating part by the first day or so of life, just like any creature. There are innumerable people who will work themselves into a tizzy over someone pairing the wrong wine with the wrong food, or food served the wrong way, using the wrong fork, and so on. For what it’s worth, I know a bit about wine, but I also know that most people don’t have the tastebuds to distinguish the subtle nuances of many wines (or to know quite how they interact with whatever foods are being enjoyed), let alone be able to distinguish tap water from supposedly exquisite designer bottled water. And frankly, I’d rather get a $10 bottle of wine than a more expensive and refined one. Maybe it’s the practical in me. I dunno.
When I grill a steak, if someone wants it well-done, I make it well-done. I’ve never heard anyone who wanted a well-done steak complain that it was too tough or lacked flavor or juices or any of the complaints that someone insisting on the purity of a product might say happens when you “ruin” a steak by cooking it too long. Also, if someone wants ketchup on their steak, be my guest. I’ve got that and any other condiment they might want.
I’ve read reviews that praise books that just didn’t strike the right notes for me. And the flip side is true. There isn’t a bestseller out there that doesn’t have one-star reviews excoriating it for how terrible it is.
I tend to read books both subjectively and objectively when I enjoy them. When I don’t enjoy them so much, I try to just retain the objectivity about what I see in the writing. Because most times, these books really did appeal to some people. They just weren’t my thing.
As for predicting what strikes my fancy, as I mention, it varies quite a bit.