When I first joined Goodreads I absolutely loved reviewing books. Oh you want my unfiltered opinion on how much this book meant to me? I will provide you with a one page long list of everything amazing full with exclamation marks and all caps letters!
But then I started to realise that reviews needed a certain structure. I couldn’t just say I LOVE IT SO YOU SHOULD READ IT and expect that to stand as a review. And that’s fine. My reviews evolved into me talking about the characters and the plot-line and diversity and I’m currently extremely pleased with my structure of book reviews on my blog. I also came across tons of super well-written reviews with in-depth discussion of themes and metaphors. And I truly commend people who dive so deep into a book and take out the time to do that.
But what I hate is when people expect that from me.
And when I mean me I’m talking about avid bookworms, especially English or Literature majors.
As a prospective English major people expect certain things from me, most of which are stereotypical. No I don’t sprout poetry, in fact I don’t even like poetry. No, I don’t like Paradise Lost, I was half-asleep when I tried to read it and no I certainly haven’t read all the classics.
But what’s worse is when I’m expected to hold long and deep discussions about the books I read. People automatically assume that I have well-developed critical thought and analyses of a book.
Let’s get one thing straight, I despise having to critically analyse every single text I read.
I get to do exactly that in all of my English classes. Is it fun? Sometimes. Do I want to do it with every book I come across? Hell no.
Critical analysis is not an easy thing and neither does it come naturally to me. I’m not the kind of readers who bookmarks important lines and goes over paragraphs to extract their complete essence. I’m the reader who gets engrossed with the characters and stories and gets lost in the world-building to the point. I keep forgetting the little details, let alone remembering to make connections between things that were mentioned fifty pages apart. As a reader, I’m a mess. I read to enjoy myself, to discover something new.
And I never analyse a book outside of class because for me, that’s a burden.
Once in high-school I was supposed to go for a literary contest and my friend and I had chosen a well-written thriller to dissect and speak about. I loved that book. It was my first book by Linwood Barclay and I was so excited to talk about it. But by the time we were done with our essay I was disappointed. The book I was in love with two days ago felt sub-par at best. I didn’t see the spark anymore. There was nothing hugely problematic about the book but it just wasn’t as well-written or satisfying as I had originally thought.
Was it possible that I had been too excited? Maybe. But one thing I learnt that day was that writing in-depth analysis for books or reading them with an eye to criticize ruins the experience for me.
There will always be some exceptions to that rule but it helps me separate literature class from reading for fun. My first semester was heavy on required readings and I felt so drained that the mere thought of picking up even a YA contemporary novel sounded like a chore.
Reading is a hobby that I treasure and the fact that it’s not compulsory fro me to present a thesis about the books I read in my own time is largely why I enjoy reading. This is part of the reason why I don’t look forward to writing incredibly long book reviews or any reviews for the matter of fact. Literature can be harsh. English classes and professors don’t want us to read just to pass time and I’m aware that by the time I get my degree many books will be ruined for me. And this might not be the case for many others. You do you, read and review books however you want to.
But I have a right to read for pleasure and not obsess over what a book represents and I will defend that right, even in the snob circles of the bookish community.
Do you like analyzing books?
How do you like to review books? Or do you just not write reviews?
What do you do if reading starts to feel like a chore?