Why do we read?

Picture of books

Why do we pick who/what we read?

This is not the obvious read/not read question but why do we select the books we read? I have recently been reading a lot of books for the first time that my wife had previously bought. These books are still in the crime fiction genre I frequently read but by Val McDermid, not my usual author choices. The reason holiday boredom for the first one and they were available on the shelf/in i-books already bought. Importantly because I enjoyed the first, I finished that series and started on her other books too.

Picture of books

A random selection from our book shelves.

The point is the key character, or hero figure, is often pro-lesbian with the books having a feminist plot line, and as a man I’d not previously looked at them until after reading the first. No real reason to avoid, I have no problem with either lesbians or feminist perspectives, but for some sub-conscious reason I had avoided them. It wasn’t even a case of avoiding female crime writers, I’ve read plenty of those over the years, but something perhaps in the blurbs, possibly (probably?) societal conditioning had put me off, made me think of them as books aimed at women readers.

The media has made books and films a sexist issue

The spark for writing this post, reading another book (follow me follow you) which I would not normally have given more than a passing glance to. I would have superficially dismissed it as a chick-lit, relationship novel, a genre I rarely read if it wasn’t for another, one-off, hook factor. That hook, it was by a local author (Laura James), someone I occasionally meet at local writers events and set in the local area so I gave it a go and read it straight through. The point is though because it was a sort of chick-lit story, and very clear as such even down to the the impress name on the cover, I would have dismissed it in other circumstances. I did read it and I enjoyed it.

Book and film choice shouldn’t be a sexist issue, but it undoubtedly has become so. If it had not become so would there be a need for theĀ  TV Channel Movies4Men or would a Google Scholar search on the genre label Chick Lit return over 28,000 hits?

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Screen grab from Google Scholar 28,900 results!

As this is not the first time a book (or short story) I’d not normally pick to read has unexpectedly satisfied, the key question is why do we irrationally avoid some genres? Equally importantly is why do we pick the authors and titles we do buy, or even just borrow and read for free, and why do we drop some unfinished? It isn’t even whether it is a book regarded as a current hit, staple or classic. I bought Birdsong (Faulks),which was, at the time, an acclaimed hit titleĀ  and found it pointlessly boring and I’ve never finished it. That book is, as far as I got with it anyway, arguably a relationship genre story about love in Amiens and supporting the suggestion that books in this genre are not for me. Conversely though I have read other books in the genre which I’ve actually enjoyed. It all seems very random.

An answer?

At present I haven’t an answer to the questions I’ve posed but as an author it is something I need to evaluate; my output will also be subjectively selected, what needs to be added to raise the %, even marginally, of those who read rather than dismiss my own output.




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