Thursday, April 02, 2009

An Insight

So sometimes thoughts just pop into your head and you're unable to write them down; you are driving or talking with a friend or at work or swimming or just waking up -- and you lose them.

But I just had a thought, and I have a blog, so here's my thought.

I have something posted at my desk which says, "Your job is to figure out what makes you happy, what fascinates you, and follow that lead." It was from a horoscope, I think. Anyway. Kate over at What Kate's Reading had posted a link to this thread, about why readers read romance novels.

Now, I don't even read "romance novels" and I found this thread fascinating. Why? Because it's all about why people choose to read what they read. And as I read the thread, and was tempted to post my own comment (even though I can't remember the last time I read a romance novel, unless Outlander counts, which it probably does), I found myself wondering why I wanted to jump in on the conversation. I realized it's because I just really, really love the entire subject of why we read what we read. Why does one person love romance novels best of all, and another love ghost stories? Why does one person only read self-help books, and another only read travel-adventure books? And why does another person read bits of all genres? And what is it about this author that we love, but not that author?

I find it totally fascinating to investigate why people choose certain books or genres, and what these books and genres bring up for them. Because certainly when we are talking reading a certain genre, there is an emotional response that keeps us coming back for more of the same. And I'm really interested in what those emotional responses are.

Take me, for example. I mostly seem to enjoy books that have an element of supernaturalism. I like all kinds of books and will generally read most anything, but my favorite books have a definite spookiness or otherworldliness. Now, why is this? The simple answer is that I like to be spooked. The slightly deeper answer is that there is a part of me that is tied to my childhood self, which dearly wants to believe in magic in the world. And further still: I actually do believe there is magic in the world, and things we don't understand. Reading books like urban fantasy and ghost stories just feels like a book written from my own personal version of the world. I feel at home in this genre. Also, I find that characters in these books (at least the ones I like) tend to be complicated and fighting with their own personal issues, and I enjoy reading about that sort of person.

Then why, for instance, don't I read romance novels? I'm a romantic person, right? Heroes and heroines in romance novels have complications, right? Or why don't I read more thriller novels? They're scary, right? Part of it is that, as Kate says, a banana is just a banana: they don't appeal to me (usually, although there are exceptions -- I always leave room for exceptions!). But why?

This is the thing that fascinates me. So to bring us full circle here, that's my Big Thought. This is one of my favorite subjects! This is something I could talk about endlessly. So, to skip over to a tangent I haven't even alluded to yet: I'm going to add this to my mental file of Stuff I Like. I'm on a six-month hiatus from Finding My Life Purpose, you know, but we've got to keep our eyes open all the time for possibilities. I looked into librarianship, but I think I'm more interested in the actual psychology of reading and readers and books and stories. So I was glad. That I noticed that I liked something.

Uh, something really obvious.

It's a sad day when you count it as a brilliant insight that you actually like something. But, when you've been struggling for years to figure out what it is exactly that you really like to do, let's count it as a triumph, yes? Who knows what can grow from these little seeds...

What about you? Favorite genres? And why?


Carl V. said...

You so need to read Kabuki: The Alchemy! It travels the same road that you are with parts of this post! :)

The variations on what people read and like fascinate me as well. I certainly consider science fiction and fantasy my favorite genres, but I really am more of a 'read just about anything' kind of person. I have piles of Ian Fleming books and old pulp detective thrillers laying around that I want to read, several classics I haven't gotten to, many Haruki Murakami books that are calling my name. Not to mention that spring and summer make me want to read old favorites like the Anne of Green Gables books. In the end I just enjoy a good book.

If I examined it a bit more closely I would say that romance plays a big part in my likes. Whether it be science fiction, fantasy, mystery, classic literature...I always prefer something that has a bit of romance in it. Not that everything I consider a 'favorite' does, but by and large that is exactly the case.

My love of sci fi is documented in my Origins of a Stainless Steel Rat post. Star Wars coupled with my uncles bookshelves filled with sci fi ensured that I would be a fan for life. There is something about envisioning traveling through space, being out among the stars, that gets me every time!

Wonderful post! I'm excited for the revelation you've had in your own life regarding what you like!

Shannon C. said...

I tend to agree with you that I like the element of supernatural in what I read. I think for me, I look for a sense of escape that I crave. I ultimately want to get away from boring old reality when I read, and other people's lives are so much more interesting than my own. I'm also drawn to fantasy, romance and SF in particular because I have a strong sense of justice. I want the characters I read about to be OK at the end, and in a better place than they started out. And, given that I was moved to comment, I agree with you that it's fascinating to analyze why we read what we do.

Kate said...

Great post, Daphne! I loved thinking about this too, to the point that I'm sort of getting into a three-part post on it...eventually...when the weather is bad again and the sun isn't shining in Portland :)

More later - when the sun isn't shining.