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Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

It’s going to be interesting to see how everyone responds to this week’s prompt. I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough responses to justify participating this week, but luckily I did.

1. Sometimes the movie is better than the book.

For example, The Hobbit was a fantastic book. Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on it was not something I’d ever watch again.

2. While I regularly seek out #OwnVoices stories, every author who is willing to do the appropriate research should feel free to create characters from any background or identity they wish.

Speaking as someone who is bisexual, it makes me so happy when mono-sexual authors write bi characters so long as they talk to people from my community about our experiences and listen to our feedback on how to create non-stereotypical characters if they have any questions about the appropriateness of their ideas.

The more representation we get, the better! I’d also love it if we could create a literary culture that expects inclusivity in every story and applauds authors who put the work in that is necessary to create fresh characters from a wide range of backgrounds.

3.Stalking and jealousy aren’t romantic.

I see this a lot in young adult novels especially, but it bothers me when a young girl is harassed by a guy who knows she’s completely uninterested in him. It’s even more concerning when he continues to pursue her no matter how often she turns him down or tries to avoid him. Sometimes these “love interests” will also start telling her to stop talking to certain people, insist she dress a certain way, or make other big changes to who she is as a human being without her consent.

The thing is, this isn’t romance. It’s abuse. This is a totally unacceptable way for anyone to behave and should never be part of any romantic storyline…especially when it’s written for teenagers who might not have enough life experience yet to catch these red flags if or when they pop up in real life.

4.  Characters who die must stay dead.

I’m looking at you, super heroes and other inhabitants of graphic novels.

Exceptions to this rule include ghosts, zombies, and vampires, but  character can only be one of them. If they take this path, they should be exactly as dangerous as all of the other ghosts, zombies, or vampires out there.

I have no interest in the “true love makes it safe to kiss a creature that wants to eat me” trope. If a character is a monster, let them be a proper monster.

5. Short books are better than long ones.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but in general I believe it’s better to leave the audience wanting more than to turn what could have been a tightly-written 200 page novel into a 400+ page monstrosity.

I do not need dozens of pages of descriptions of the flora and fauna of a universe in the vast majority of cases. Give me the basic rundown of how that world is different from the one I live in and let my imagination fill in the gaps. It’s so much nicer to get straight to the plot than it is to wade through what I think of as unnecessary descriptions.

6. Proselytizing books are unhelpful.

No, this isn’t about any particular religion, ethical stance, or philosophical belief. I don’t care what point the author is trying to make or even if I happen to agree with them. Books should never be used as an excuse to sermonize.

They should be used to, you know, tell a story and entertain their audience. By all means introduce a sympathetic character who happens to be on your side of issue X if it happens to genuinely fit the storyline, but always stay focused on developing the plot and characters instead of pressuring the audience to join you in your love of big, purple hats or personal vendetta against cilantro.

7. Hype is like a drug

I tend to be cautious about books that are heavily hyped up. If they’re still receiving glowing reviews six months or a year after they are published, I will start to take the overwhelmingly positive response to them more seriously.

This isn’t to say that I avoid reading books that have overwhelmingly positive reviews, only that I try to temper my expectations if the response to them feels too good to be true.

8. Excessive slang makes novels feel dated before their time.

In no way do I expect characters to speak formal English all the time, but will we remember what TBF or honey wagon means 20 years from now? If every single scene in a book is filled with slang terms that are only a few months or years old, it makes me wonder if people will still find it readable in the future.

9. Some love triangles should have unconventional endings.

Love triangles would be rare if I had my way. In my opinion, they’re overused and often take up space that would be better allotted to resolving the main conflict. If they’re going to keep existing, why not wrap them up by:

  • Everyone turning out to be polyamorous
  • The main character choosing to keep dating around instead of picking from their first two options
  • The two love interests deciding to date while the main character ends up happily alone
  • All three characters finding partners who are better matches for themselves elsewhere
  • Everyone ending up happily single for now (or forever)
  • The main character picking one person for a romantic, committed, asexual happily ever after

I believe we need much more diversity in what is counted as a happy ending in tales that decide to make love a conflict.

10. Most stories should not have romantic subplots at all.

This might be my most unpopular bookish opinion of all, but I’ve grown weary of how often characters in non-romance genres suddenly end up in relationships when they have more pressing concerns in their lives like running from a hoard of zombies or figuring out who the killer really is before they become his next victim.

Look, I’ve been happily married for years. Romance and love are incredible experiences…but there are many other equally thrilling things to explore in fiction and in real life.

I dislike the cultural pressure that is placed on folks to be married or in a longterm romantic relationship regardless of whether that’s something they actually desire in the short term or long term.  I feel like making every character have a love interest only makes this pressure more intense.

Despite the occasionally critical things I’ve had to say about romantic plots today, I am in no way opposed to them in general. I simply wish it were as common for characters to be asexual, demisexual, polyamorous, or even simply too focused on building a career, dating around, or fighting the undead to settle down right now as it is for everyone to pair off by the final scene in so many of the books out there.

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My Review of Bipasha Basu’s Unleash 30 Minute Fat Burning Cardio Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to provide medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine. 

I’m reviewing this workout simply because I enjoyed it and think some of you might, too. I’m not being compensated for this post in any way and have no affiliation with Bipasha Basu or Shemaroo Good Health 24/7. As always, this is an advertisement-free site. 

A surprising number of people find my site every week by searching for Bipasha Basu. If you’re one of them, I hope you enjoy this workout as much as you have her previous ones. If you’re new to her videos, you’re in for a real treat today!

About the 30 Minute Fat Burning Cardio Workout

This is a 30 minute workout that includes approximately five minutes each of warmup and cool down exercises. I liked the fact that those things were accounted for. As I’ve said here in the past, I find it easy to skip out on cool downs especially when videos don’t include them because of how eager I am to flop over and relax after exercising.

One of the biggest reasons why I decided to do this particular workout was because Bipasha Basu was in it! She has an aerobic dance workout I’ll link to at the bottom of today’s post that I love, so I was curious to see what else she’s been up to lately.

There is no special equipment required for this routine. I appreciated having a yoga mat to jump around on, but this extra layer of padding on the ground is optional.

The cardiovascular exercises in this video included jumping jacks, pushups, mountain climbers, squats, kicks, squats, bunny hops, and marching in place between the most strenuous moves. Bipasha Basu’s 30 Minute Fat Burning Cardio Workout 

My Review

Let’s begin this review with a lighthearted comment about bunny hops. This wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before, but anyone who knows how much I adore rabbits can probably guess how much I enjoyed that particular part of the workout. It was the last thing I was expecting to find in such a serious video, but it sure was a cute thing to try.

Most of the cardiovascular exercise I do is in the form of walking. While it’s brisk, I was still more challenged by this workout than I was expecting to be. There’s a difference between taking a walk and doing jumping jacks, and I think I need to be doing more of the latter to build up my endurance!

This definitely isn’t something I’d recommend to a beginner. I consider myself to be a reasonably fit person, and I wasn’t able to go through this entire video without pausing when I was testing it out for this post. If you’ve been exercising regularly for a while, this may be right up your alley.

I never know how to properly gauge the intensity of a workout, but I would recommend it to people who have been exercising regularly for a while and are interested in trying something new. Bipasha’s Basu’s aerobic dance workout I previously reviewed on my site was an easier, lower-impact workout that included all sorts of positive messages about loving yourself and doing your best.

This one included a minimum amount of narration and more energetic moves. That minimalistic approach is something I appreciate. I suspect I’ll continue to be challenged by it for quite a while.

With that being said, I did notice a few exercises that carried over from her aerobic dance workout. It was amusing to be surprised by them just when I thought that Ms. Basu was expecting her audience to learn an entirely new set of moves.

The only non-complimentary thing I’ll say about this workout has to do with the background music. I’m not a fan of exercising to music unless I’m dancing, so I did find myself wishing for a version of this workout that included Ms. Basu’s instructions but no other noises. This is a minor criticism of something I otherwise found quite useful and challenging, though, and I am glad that the background music didn’t include lyrics.

What I like the most about Bipasha Basu’s workouts is the repetition built into them. Every move was repeated once before she had her audience go onto a different set of exercises. While this is a common thing to find in all sorts of fitness routines, I’ve only grown to appreciate it more over time. It’s nice to be able to practice certain moves more than once, especially if they’d be something I might skip if I were making up my own list of exercises to get through on cardio days.

Previous Reviews of Free Youtube Workout Routines:

The Challenging Chair Workout 

Bipasha Basu’s 30-Minute Aerobic Dance Workout

Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Fitness Blender’s Ab Blasting Interval Workout

Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout

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Interview with KristaLyn A. Vetovich

Say hello to KristaLyn A. Vetovich! She was the second person to respond to my speculative fiction interview post, and I’m excited to share her answers with you today. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

My mother hooked me on reading with the Harry Potter series. She would read them to us every night, but I would read ahead because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

At the moment, Neil Gaiman. Not only are his stories incredible, but his perspective is so encouraging and grounding for me as an author.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I love speculative fiction because it’s the best way to unleash everything my imagination can come up with, whether it’s through my own writing or leaping into a world of someone else’s design. It helps remind me that anything is possible and I can make a better reality.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I love it! Why not get creative and complex as long as it’s entertaining and makes sense for the reader? We have plenty of people (editors, publishers, etc) who keep our feet on the ground while we take our minds further into the clouds.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I usually let my pet’s personality inspire their names, but I did give my corgi the middle name Mikleo after a character in the Tales of Zestiria video game.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

Any world with zombies in it. Zombies aren’t my thing.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

I want to visit the world of Good Omens and just get coffee (or tea) with Crowly and Aziraphale. I feel like that would be an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I take responsibility for my own exposure to spoilers and if I happen upon one I see it as just another reason to experience the story as soon as possible. I’m not one to spread spoilers though. Everyone deserves the right to choose what they know going into a story.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

That’s a tough one! So many are already coming to the screen. As long as they’re done well, I’d watch all of them to promote the authors and their series!

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

Avatar: The Last Airbender. Those characters would translate so well into books!

Bonus Author Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

For the Shifted series it was just people watching and imagining how hard we must make it on spirit guides to get through to us. The story exploded from there.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

I’ve had entire characters introduce themselves and I don’t realize it until pages later. I welcome them. If my creativity is flowing, I’m all for it and I like to think it usually works out better for the story than what I’d originally planned. I can always adjust in revisions if I need to.

What is your favourite trope?

I love the unwilling or unexpected hero. It shows that heroes come from everywhere and that being a hero is a choice anyone can make.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

I avoid love at first sight—though I believe it can happen. I like romance to be a secondary part of the plot in my stories so I can focus on the individuals and what makes them heroes in their own right.

 

About: KristaLyn is an internationally bestselling author, certified holistic practitioner, and intuitive coach who helps people attract the lives they want to live with the one thing they can’t control: divine timing.

KristaLyn lives in a treehouse in Pennsylvania with her husband and corgi, Jack, and cooperates with her family to help revitalize the Coal Region of Pennsylvania to a new, sustainable glory.

Website: www.KristaLynAVetovich.com

Email: info@KristaLynAVetovich.com

Social Media Handle: @AuthorKristaLyn

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What to Read If You Liked The Walking Dead

Since the first post in this series was about a book published almost forty years ago, I thought the second post should feature something more contemporary from the speculative fiction genre.

I try not to make assumptions about what my followers already know about any book or graphic novel I blog about, so I’ll summarize The Walking Dead in one spoiler-free sentence for anyone who isn’t familiar with it:

After waking up from a coma, a police officer must find his missing family and adjust to a world that has somehow become overrun with zombies while he was unconscious. 

Obviously, there’s a lot more going on this world, but that sentence will give you the gist of it.

As a fair warning, the graphic novels as well as the TV show based on them are both incredibly violent. I actually had to stop reading and watching both of them a while ago due to this, although I’m still intrigued by the characters Robert Kirkman first created in 2003 and the assumptions he made about what life would be like in this sort of world.

If zombies and post-apocalyptic worlds are things you enjoy reading about, here are some other books that might be equally appealing.

Some of these titles have popped up in many similar lists online, but I’ve come up with a few classic novels I thought would work as well because of how many themes they share with this series.

Humans have dealt with plagues for millennia. For most of that time, we didn’t know why someone would seem to be perfectly healthy one day only to become dangerously ill the next.  You might be surprised to see how many similarities there are between an outbreak of cholera or rabies and a zombie infestation.

What happens when a society breaks down is another string connecting all of these recommendations. While I tend to have a much more optimistic view of how the average person would behave in that situation, not every writer agrees with that. It’s always interesting to see more pessimistic takes on the topic.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Imagine trying to stay alive in a world where nothing grew anymore. Now picture doing it while raising a child by yourself.

The relationship between the main character and his son reminded me a lot of how Rick Grimes interacted with his son in The Walking Dead. Both of these parents had been pushed to their limits by worlds they couldn’t possibly have predicted or prevented. Their love for their children was what kept them going in impossible situations.

Fair warning: this is a pretty violent story. Be sure to read some full reviews of it before checking it out if you’re sensitive to or triggered by acts of violence.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

In this tale, a group of schoolboys were stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. They needed to figure out how to survive there without any adult supervision for a long period of time.

This was one of the first classics I thought about after I discovered the zombie genre. True, there weren’t any monsters on the island, but the unstable, dangerous community these kids developed reminded me a lot of how many living characters behave in typical zombie movies.

If only William Golding were still alive. I’d sure like to see what he thought of the similarities between this book and today’s horror movies.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Zombies attacked. Humans fought back. Eventually, society stabilized enough for researchers to begin collecting stories from the survivors of this apocalypse.

I liked this more hopeful approach to how people might respond to a zombie invasion. People banded together in many of the anecdotes the narrator collected, and not all of them were the folks you might necessarily expect to make alliances with one another. Some characters also survived circumstances that seemed like they should never have worked out okay in the end. It wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Oh, and do not watch the film based on this book. The only things it shared in common with the original version were the title and the fact that zombies exist in both universes.

Yes, I might still be a little vexed about that.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy

If you think about it, rabies shares many similarities with whatever virus, bacteria, plot hole, or magical disease that creates zombies depending on which universe we’re talking about.

This disease is spread through bites and scratches.

Once symptoms appear, death is certain.

People and animals unlucky enough to be infected with it become agitated and unpredictable.

Sometimes I wonder if rabies was one of those real-life diseases that encourages creative minds to come up with fictional versions of it. They certainly have enough in common for me to think this is a likely explanation for at least some of the zombie folklore out there.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaugh

This is one of those graphic novels that I keep waiting for Hollywood to discover and turn into a TV series. It was a post-apocalyptic story what happened to the world after a virus killed off all but one man on Earth while leaving everyone who had two X chromosomes unaffected.

It was much less violent than The Walking Dead has been so far, but humanity still had to figure out how it was going to survive in the longterm. Since even frozen sperm and male embryos died out in this plague, humanity would only continue to exist for at most another century if the characters couldn’t figure out a way to create the next generation without the help of the Y chromosome.

Most of the storyline dealt with the main character’s quest to travel to the other side of the globe and find his estranged girlfriend. That journey was far from an easy one, but it did introduce the audience to all sorts of interesting characters along the way.

The Plague by Albert Camus

This tale was written at a time when epidemics happened more often than they do in most countries today. I’ve read that Camus was influenced by the Cholera outbreaks that happened both in the setting of this novella as well as closer to home. While the storyline doesn’t mention this disease by name, it does give clues that this might be what was killing off the characters so quickly.

If you’re not familiar with Cholera, know that it’s a bacteria that causes such severe, persistent diarrhea that people die of dehydration. In short, it is an awful way to die, and the plot did go into detail about what happens to the human body after being exposed to this illness. (So maybe don’t read this while eating lunch….)

Like fictional zombie diseases, Cholera didn’t have a cure and was poorly understood. I’m not surprised Camus was inspired to write about it. It struck communities without warning and spread like wildfire through fecally contaminated water and food. Seeing how the main character reacted to an illness that no one could stop reminded me so much of Rick Grimes’ reaction to the many deaths he saw while trying to survive in a zombiepocalypse.

What other books should be added to this list? Have you read any of these titles?

Previous posts in this series:

What to Read If You Liked Clan of the Cave Bear

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Taking an Excused Absence Today

Don’t worry, everything is well in my world. I’m simply not satisfied enough with the posts I’m currently working on to publish any of them quite yet. It’s better to say nothing than to share half-formed thoughts, I think.

I’ll go back to my usual posting routine on Monday. Cheers!

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Suggestion Saturday: August 18, 2018

Here is this week’s list of links from my favourite corners of the web. Last week’s list was a little sparse. I think I more than made up for that this time around.

Don’t Worry About Feeling Sad – on the Benefits of a Blue Period. What do all of you think of this idea? I know I’m intrigued.

How a Disabled Person Feels When Someone Stares at Them via SarahJBpoetry. This is a blog I’m going to be keeping my eye on in the future.

It’s Never too Late to Be a Reader Again. Raise your hand if you’ve ever regretfully stopped reading something. I like the idea of returning to a book later on in life to see if it fits you better then.

Sand Castle Marketing via cynthiaharriso1. If you have a mailing list or are thinking of setting one up, go read this. I love this blogger’s approach to marketing. If only more authors and other creative folks thought this way.

Losing Earth – the Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. Buckle down for a long read here. I’d be especially curious to hear the thoughts of everyone who clearly remembers 1979-1989. How much do you remember talking about climate change back then? Do you agree that we came close to finding a solution during that decade?

Broken Thoughts – The Story of My Two Broken Legs via sonzyb. Ooh, this made me wince. I also found it interesting because I’ve never broken a single bone and so didn’t know the details of how such an injury is treated. Keep in mind that there is one photo of her injuries and vivid written descriptions of them as well. It didn’t bother me, but I thought you all should know this in advance. If you like this post, be sure to click on part two at the end of it. There were four parts in all, and the author did link to the next one at the end of the first three parts in the series.

Inside the Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning. Seriously, how is this not the stuff of science fiction?

Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage. I don’t normally pay attention to the lives of celebrities, but this article was interesting because of how private Beyoncé generally is. It makes me wonder why she decided to share such personal details about her family all of the sudden.

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My 4 Favourite Science Fiction Books About Life on Mars

Today’s post was inspired by yesterday’s breaking news about a lake of salty, liquid water being found on Mars. This is exciting news for the scientific community and humanity in general. We may now be a little closer to discovering life on another planet.

As a sci-fi writer, I can only hope this leads to that outcome and paves the way for humans to live there someday. Maybe we’ll even be lucky enough to both find life on another planet and figure out how humans could live there longterm, too.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

The first time I read the premise of this book, I wondered how the main character, Valentine Michael Smith, managed to survive on Mars for his entire childhood when there weren’t any adult humans around to take care of him. Where did he find air? What did he eat and drink? Where did he get his clothing? Who looked after him when he was sick or too little to take care of himself? How did he know how to speak English?

Without giving away spoilers for these questions, I loved slowly figuring out what Valentine’s childhood had been like and why he was bewildered and even horrified by a long list of what I would think of as quite ordinary Earth customs.

While there are topics that Heinlein and I strongly disagree on,* I will always appreciate the way this book explored what it meant to be human and how life on Mars could be radically different from anything people have experienced on Earth.

*See also: the ways he treats and describes many of his female characters.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but the concept of The War of the Worlds scared me the first time I heard of it. The thought of aliens coming to Earth in order to harm people was something I’d never considered before. Before that point, I’d always assumed that any alien species that found Earth would be friendly with us. (Yes, I was pretty young and naive when I first stumbled across this book!)

I’ve since come to interpret The War of the Worlds as a reflection of humanity’s fears more than anything else. Just because we have a long history of harming those we can’t or won’t understand in no way means that sentient aliens would have the same reaction to us.

Or at least I hope they wouldn’t…..

 

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Let’s assume that there are no forms of life blissfully swimming their microscopic lives away in a salty Martian sea. A “dead” world might be the perfect setting for terraforming a planet to better suite the needs of humanity.

One of the things I loved about this trilogy was how long it followed the same storyline. Generations passed as Mars was slowly transformed into an Earth-like planet. Nobody who was alive in the first scene knew how everything ended by the final scene of Blue Mars. Writing it this way gave the author many opportunities to explore what happens when the original intentions of a scientist or explorer are reinterpreted by new generations as fashions change and people’s ideas of    how best to manage a resource as large as a planet shifted.

I’ve often wished humans could live long enough to see how their ideas still influenced people several generations later. The world might be a better place if everyone took such a longterm approach to the things they advocated for (or against).

The Martian by Andy Weir

Yes, I know I’ve blogged about this tale before. As much as I try to avoid talking about the same science fiction and fantasy books over and over again here, there are times when simply have to circle back and repeat myself.

One of the things I loved the most about The Martian was how hard the author worked to make the events of the plot scientifically plausible. While there were a few discrepancies between it and how such a mission would really play out in real life, much of it was pretty close to what any astronaut would go through if he or she really were to be accidentally abandoned on Mars.

I could see something close to these events happening if humans decided to try to live on Mars only to suffer massive setbacks early on. Hopefully, any future residents of the Red Planet would be just as resourceful as Mark was in this adventure.

What are your favourite sci-fi stories about what it would be like to either live on Mars or discover that another species already lives there?

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What Should I Write About Next?

Every once in a while, I like to ask my readers for feedback.

What topics related to fitness, writing, mindfulness, and/or the science fiction and fantasy genres would you like to see me blog about?

What posts here have you enjoyed the most so far?

Which ones would you like to see a follow-up to?

If you have an idea that’s tangentially related to one of these areas, I’d still like to hear. I do occasionally write essays outside of these interests.

Talk to me in the comment section here or on Twitter if you have any ideas.

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Nothing Appeals to Everyone

As I mentioned last week, there are certain authors and genres I’ve never been able to become a fan of no matter how many times I try to like them.

It simply isn’t possible to write, draw, film, or sing something that’s going to appeal to every single person who stumbles across it. My thoughts on this topic were too complicated to condense for last week’s post, so I’m going to discuss them with you this week instead.

Some themes, plot twists, or tropes will appeal to one reader but will repel the next person who attempts to read them. This is completely normal, and it says nothing about the quality of the writing itself. It all boils down to the subjective nature of art and storytelling.

Subjectivity and Literature

To give you a concrete example of what I’m talking about, let’s go back to when I was in high school. My eleventh grade English teacher was a kind, generous woman who regularly allowed her students borrow books from her if we wanted something to read for the sheer joy of it.

When she noticed me reading a scary Stephen King story one week and a collection of Langston Hughes poems the next, she smiled and say she was glad to see a student of hers readings such a wide variety of stuff.

She taught her students a lot about literature in general. The authors she assigned us to study were from a wide range of eras and movements. I enjoyed all of them at least a little bit with one glaring exception: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

By the time I finished the first scene of it, I began counting down the days until we finished the last chapter and moved onto literally anything else in the entire world. I honestly would have preferred to read the phone book by the time we were halfway through that story because there was nothing about it that I found at all enjoyable. The characters were vain, selfish, and materialistic from what I observed. If anything interesting ever happened to them, the horrendously slow pacing made it hard for me to tell when those scenes were occurring.

I’ve never been able to get into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s catalogue even as an adult reader who no longer has to remember anything about what I’ve read for a future pop quiz. Obviously, there are plenty of people who disagree with me here, and I’m glad that they’re able to get something out of his writing. The fact that it doesn’t speak to me in no way means that it isn’t worth reading.

He simply isn’t the kind of storyteller that I’m drawn to. Something tells me that my teacher would have understood this if it had been socially acceptable for me to tell her how much I disliked that unit. As it was, I stayed perfectly polite and never brought up the subject. She might have privately had a list of authors she wasn’t a fan of as well!

Subjectivity and Art

The subjective nature of these things isn’t limited to literature, either.

One of the biggest reasons why I love going to art museums, shows, galleries, and other creative spaces with a small group of like-minded people has to do with how interesting it is to see how different folks respond to the same painting, sculpture, or other creative work.

When it comes to photography, I like whimsical, thought-provoking pieces like the shot of two toy robots on the right side of this post. Their glowing eyes make it easy to imagine that they’re somehow at least slightly aware of their surroundings.

There are so many different ways to interpret a photo like this one. Sometimes when I’m sitting quietly somewhere this is exactly the sort of thing I think about.

My taste in paintings is nothing like my preferences for photography. Hyperrealism fascinated me long before I had any idea that there was a name for this movement or that multiple painters have figured out how to paint scenes so realistic that I genuinely feel like I could walk into them and never notice I was in a painting at all. It was a style of painting I was pleasantly surprised to see on occasion, and I only grew to love it more once I figured out what it was called and that many different artists have explored it over the years.

Of course, not everyone is going to agree with me on either of these points. There are people out there who don’t connect with the pieces that speak to me at all just like I have been known to have trouble understanding other, most abstract types of art.

Subjectivity and Music

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get a group of people to agree on what a good song should sound like even after you’ve sorted out objective criteria like the quality of the singer’s voice or whether or not they’re singing on key?

I know plenty of folks who have incredibly strong opinions on this topic. Some of them even refuse to listen to certain artists or entire genres of music altogether because of how firmly they’ve made up their minds about what they do and don’t enjoy.

Yes, I’ve done this, too. There was a long period of time when I didn’t think I liked any form of country music at all. It was only after being exposed to many different types of it that I realized there were a small number of country artists that I actually did enjoy quite a bit.

There’s Something for Everyone

While nothing is going to appeal to everyone, there is something out there for everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I find that freeing.

It’s okay not to like something. Someone else out there loves it.

On the flip side, you’ll find plenty of books and other creative works that you do love if you keep searching for the things that speak to you.

What have you read, watched, or listened to that you’ve never been able to enjoy? What creative works have you tried and been surprised by how much you loved them?

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No, You Don’t Have to Finish That Book

I spend a lot of my time online talking to other people who love to read. Over and over again, I keep running into conversations about stories that someone doesn’t like for any number of reasons but forces themselves to keep reading anyway.

It’s one thing to continue reading something that’s been assigned for a class or book club, but making yourself to read something you don’t like for no reason at all doesn’t make any sense.

No, you don’t have to finish that book. It truly is okay to stop reading one sentence, paragraph, chapter, or act into the plot.

If you need more convincing, keep reading.

There Are Hundreds of Millions of Other Book in the World

As of 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in the world. (I tried to find a more up-to-date statistic than that, but I didn’t have any luck. If any of my readers know what the current number is, I’d love to hear it).

No matter what genre you’re into or how particular you are your reading material, there are far more stories floating around out there than you will ever have the time to check out before you die even if you spent every single waking moment doing nothing but reading for the next 50 years.

Why waste your time on something that doesn’t appeal to you when you could be back at the bookstore or library finding a different title that is right up your alley?

There is nothing like the feeling you get when you find a story that’s perfect for your tastes. This should happen as much as possible for everyone who loves to read. The less time you spend on “meh” book, the more time you’ll have for the ones that you really love.

Pleasure Reading Is Supposed to be Pleasurable

Yes, I know this is an obvious statement, but sometimes I think people forget that you’re supposed to enjoy the tales you pick out when you’re looking for something to fill your spare time.

It’s one thing to slog through the fine details of a contract, user manual, textbook*, user agreement, or some other form of reading that is meant to give the reader important knowledge instead of entertaining them. These reasons for reading are an unavoidable part of life, and they do serve incredibly important purposes for anyone who needs more information about when their phone contract runs out or what to do when their fridge makes that really bizarre sound.

Reading for the sheer pleasure of it is different. The only purpose of this type of reading is to give you joy. If you’re not enjoying it, you might as well go find something else that does make you happy.

*Although I will admit to reading textbooks for fun in the past, too!

You Might Like It More Later

Just because a book doesn’t appeal to you right now doesn’t mean you won’t have a different opinion of it in the future.

Not liking a specific story the first time you tried it could happen for any number of reasons. For example, you could have picked it up before you were ready for that particular tale or at a time in your life when other types of writing were more appealing to you.

The first time I read C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, I honestly didn’t know what to think of it. The scene where Orual, the main character, sees Pearl, her sister, again after assuming that Pearl had died was beautiful and poignant, but the plot flew over my head because I wasn’t familiar with the myth of Cupid and Psyche and I was a little too young for the subject matter in general.

It was only when I reread it a few years later that I started understanding the themes Mr. Lewis was exploring in it about love, selfishness, doubt, suffering, and gods whose actions don’t make any sense at all to us humans.

With that being said….

Nothing Appeals to Everyone

I may have to write a follow-up post to this post sometime, but not every author or story is going to appeal to every single reader no matter how many times you try to change your opinion of it.

It simply isn’t impossible to write something that appeals to everyone in the entire world.

I know several people who only read nonfiction. Some readers love mysteries but wouldn’t touch a horror novel with a ten foot pole. Others wants  cutting-edge science in their fiction but will run screaming from the slightest hint of romance in the plot.

This only scratches the surface of all of the different types of writing and storytelling that are out there.

There are certain authors and fictional universes that I’ve never been able to get into no matter how many times I give them another shot or how hard I try to enjoy them. This doesn’t mean that those books are bad or not worth checking out in any way. They’re simply not my cup of tea for all sorts of different reasons.

There are many other people out there who deeply love them. Some of them are wildly popular, and I’m glad that they’ve found their audience even though I’m not part of that audience.

If you struggle with putting books away without finishing them, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. It truly isn’t necessary to keep reading something that you can’t bring yourself to like.

Do any of my readers have this problem? How often do you give up on reading a book before you finish it?

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