Solve This One, Mr. Holmes

Sherlock HolmesI’ve always loved a good mystery book, but for some reason I never got that much into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I recall reading “The Speckled Band” in high school and not being that impressed; something about the story just felt stuffy and…well, British. And after reading ten of the stories in quick succession last month, I still feel pretty much the same.

I’m not sure why I’m disappointed. Watson and Holmes are fantastic characters, the mysteries are genuinely mysterious, and there’s a good amount of action. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” was even a bit frightening, with scary things going bump in the night.

So, a quick question for you guys. For which of the following reasons do you think I was underwhelmed by Doyle’s stories?

  1. They’re short stories, which have never been my favorites. I should try reading one of the novels, like A Study in Scarlet.
  2. They really are dry and stuffy.
  3. I’m a troglodyte who wouldn’t know a good story if it bit me on the ass.

Discuss.

Musing Mondays: Culling vs. Surrendering

Musing Mondays: Culling vs. Surrendering(Musing Mondays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Just click on the image to share your answer to this week’s musing!)

This week’s musing is: “There’s a discussion on NPR about the simple fact that there’s no way you can read, see, and experience all the things that are available to be experienced. The two methods for dealing with it are culling (cutting out certain genres that don’t interest you) or surrender (just making peace with the facts and enjoying what you can in the time you have).

So, do you cull, or do you surrender? Or do you do both?

My musing

I definitely do both (like most people, I’d surmise), but I think I rely a bit more on culling.

  1. If I see a book that looks interesting, I read reviews about it, whether on the blogs I follow or the Goodreads boards. If it doesn’t seem like something I’d enjoy, I pass on it.
  2. I save money by only buying the books I’m pretty certain I’ll love. If I get a book at the library and don’t like it, it’s not as big a deal.
  3. I try really hard to follow my 50 page rule: if I don’t love a book by page 50, I give up.
  4. I avoid genres and authors I know I won’t enjoy. For example, I recently gave up on trying to like dystopian novels.

As for surrendering…I guess I just accept the fact that there are billions of books out there, and I just won’t be able to read them all. Why moan over the ones I can’t read when I can spend that time enjoying a few more stories?

Happy 4th of July to my American readers, and happy Canada Day to our northern neighbors! Go outside and enjoy the sunshine!

Seeking Advice: Reading Rut

Stuck in a reading rutI’m in what I call one of my “reading ruts.” Work is stressing me out, so my reading choices lately have tended toward the light and fluffy of YA literature. Ash was deeper and more meaningful than I expected, but overall my recent reads list looks very similar to a 12-15 year olds’. My TBR list is expanding into infinity, and I don’t know where to begin.

Here’s where I need your help.

How do you get out of a reading rut?

What do you do when you notice that the last 5-10 books you’ve read are in the same genre, or cover the same topic? What do you do if the stresses of life reduce you to reading the cotton candy of literature: pretty and delicious, but ultimately unsatisfying?

Participating in the Gothic Reading Challenge has helped me some; I’m a Type A personality (to say the least), and having goals and deadlines helps me stay focused and on track. But at what point does striving to reach a goal totally suck out all the joy of reading?

How do you manage your reading?

How do you choose the book you plan to read next? Do you fly by the seat of your pants, or do you have an ordered list?

For those of you who write reviews, do you actively try to review different genres and types of books, or does it not bother you if you review four or five YA novels in a row before moving on to several Paranormal, before migrating over into non-fiction for a few weeks? Have you found that your readers get bored easily, or do they stick around, knowing you’ll get over your sudden obsession and move on?

Tell me: how do you do it?

[Image: jober788]

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Lie About

Top-Ten-Tuesday(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Want to make your own list? Clicking the image will take you to this week’s post. Happy listing!)

Is there a book you tell people you’ve read, even though you actually haven’t? Have you agreed with someone’s positive review of a book, when really you hate the book with a fiery passion? Time to spill the beans! This week’s list is centered around books you’ve lied about.

One thing that I’ve always prided is my inability to lie about my feelings toward a specific book: if I loved it, I rave about it constantly; if I hated, I rant about it constantly. But I have a secret, an enjoyment of books of a certain type that I don’t talk about often, because I think a lot of people consider it taboo: I read books about sex.

I don’t mean romance novels. I mean things like Bonk (Mary Roach), a book that talks about the nitty-gritty of the sex research that goes on in labs across the country and world. I’m obsessed with David Buss and his theories of evolutionary psychology, and in college I took classes like “Human Sexuality,” “Abnormal Psychology,” and “Sexual Deviance.” A short sampling of the “sex books” I own/want to read include:

  • Why Women Have Sex: Sexual Motivation, from Adventure to Revenge (Cindy Meston, David Buss)
  • The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex (David Buss)
  • The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (David Buss)
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (John D’emilio, Estelle B. Freedman)
  • Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences (Laura M. Carpenter)
  • Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha)
  • The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction (Rachel P. Maines)
  • Affection: An Erotic Memoir (Krissy Kneen)

I’ve also got almost as many books relating to feminism and sexuality. I think this collection would make my psychology professors happy, but it’s not a genre that I often discuss unless I’m with close friends. I always tell people never to be embarrassed by what they enjoy reading, but I’m kind of afraid I’ll be thought of as some pervert who gets her jollies from reading about others’ sexual experiences.

But to me it’s not about the titillation — if I wanted that, I’d read a romance novel. There’s nothing remotely titillating about trying to figure out why jealousy exists when all it seems to lead to spousal abuse; and while it’s kind of funny to imagine a penis camera, it’s not particularly arousing. But it is fascinating, and so I read it. I just don’t talk about it in mixed company.

What books have you lied about? Is there a genre that you’re embarrassed to love?

I Refuse to Read This.

In a recent “chain letter” that has swept through my Facebook feed, people are given a list of 100 “classic” books and asked to indicate which they’ve read, either in full or bits and pieces.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that I’ve read, from cover to cover, 33 of those 100. And although that’s a relatively large portion of the list, I’m sad to say that there were 12 books of which I’d only read portions.

Some of those 12, such as A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, I haven’t read in full because there’s a million of them. Same goes for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories — there are dozens, and frankly I’m just not that interested.

But what about some of the others? What made me pick up a book and then drop it, unfinished, several days or weeks later? For that matter, what’s a good reason for leaving any book unfinished?

When I stop reading

Several of the books, including Jane Austen’s Emma and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, have been adapted into films. With both of these books, I’ve seen so many adaptations (or seen just one adaptation a zillion times — I’m looking at you, Gwyneth Paltrow!) that reading the book is rather dull. I know the exact plot, and can quote whole sections. I’m so saturated with film that paper and ink won’t fit. I know, shameful.

As for The Chronicles of Narnia, I get it: it’s an allegory. Aslan is Jesus, and Eustace is a rotten little puke who deserves to be turned into a dragon. Yes, it’s well written, and yes it’s popular, but I hate being hit over the head with allegories. It hurts and makes my eyes water.

Some classics are also just off-putting to me. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is well known for being creepy, but have you ever tried to read Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida? It’s revolting, and is probably something I’ll never read.

But almost worse than all of these reasons is the final one: the book is boring. I hate situations like this the most because I generally have high hopes for the book…only to have them dashed by flat characters, unexciting prose, and/or general plot muddiness.

Some hints

Don’t waste your time reading a book you’re not enjoying — especially if you’re only reading it because it’s everyone else is.

I’ve discussed my 50 page rule before, but it could just as easily be the “3 chapter rule” or the “100 page rule.” If you’re not a fan of the book by the time you reach your rule, don’t feel guilty about dropping it.

Also, don’t equate putting a book down with “giving up.” Just because my first attempt at reading Austen’s Persuasion or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina ended with my setting them aside, doesn’t mean I won’t pick them up in the future and love them.

Life is a series of experiences, each of which affects the way we view the world — including books. So don’t give up on that “boring” book just yet. Set it aside and read something else, and then come back when you’re ready to try again. You might just surprise yourself.

Above all, remember that there are millions of books out there. Read what you love.

What book(s) have you tried to read, but given up on? Has a film adaption ruined a classic for you too? What do you think of allegories?