May 28, 2010
Does Anyone Else Have This Problem?
I find that after completing a book, I have a hard time selecting my next read from my ridiculously long reading list. It's not that there isn't anything good in there: quite the opposite in fact. But even when I have a book I've been dying to read like China Mieville's Kraken or Ian McDonald's The Dervish House, I find myself struggling to get into it. I'm tempted to pick up other books
I think this problem stems from two key points. First, no matter how good a book is, whether it's the latest Joe Abercrombie blood-drenched fantasy or Paolo Bacigalupi's newest eco-SF adventure, the collective quality of the rest of the other choices will always outweigh it. Why read a SF Space Opera when you could be reading Urban Fantasy, Near-future SF, Alternate History, Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, Theopunk, Cyberpunk, Treepunk, Punkpunk? For all that a book is, there is so much more it's not. I know it's stupid to think like this but like Jacob of LOST, I have a hard time selecting which of the many candidates is worthy of my limited reading time. More often that not I false start, reading 20-30 pages of one tome before setting it down in favor or something else.
Adding to this fact is the way I read, which is probably similar to most people. It take me a while to get into a book. I need to reset my brain to read sentences the way the author writes them. I also tend to read every word, in admiration of the skill of writing rather than purely absorbing plot. Authors put a lot of time into their prose and making sure things are worded to their satisfaction, and I feel like a lot of the time and for a lot of readers, that effort is wasted. Few things make me happier than a perfectly worded sentence. Michael Chabon, I'm looking at you.
But anyway, back to the topic of the post. Until I reset my mind for the new prose stylings, I read much slower. Eventually, after 50 or 100 pages my mind is able to acclimate to the new style and I can pick up the pace. More often than not, I read the last three quarters of the book in the same time it took me to read the first quarter if not faster.
Both of these tendencies are particularly problematic when I am reading collections or anthologies. Even more so when they feature multiple authors. An anthology introduces many more clean stopping points, many more prose styles, and many more options than a single novel. And this is ignoring the fact that by the time I adjust to the new style, the story is frequently over. Heck, I've been reading The World Book of SF for about 5 months now.
Posted by Patrick at 5/28/2010 08:00:00 AM