Quite some time ago, a blogging friend challenged me to a meme but I let it go so long that I can't remember exactly what the subject was. I know it had to do with reading, and I think it was about listing my particular quirks as a reader.
That's a list I will thoroughly enjoy composing.
1. I hate magical realism, as evidenced in books like "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"by Tom Robbins or "Like Water for Chocolate", by Laura Esquivel. Now, I have no problem with a book if I know there is magic coming, as in "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman. Or, if I know that time travel will be involved, as in "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger or "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon. As I learned in English lit classes, this is called "willing suspension of disbelief", a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
However, I can't stand it when I'm reading along, enjoying a book and everything is realistic, following the laws of physics and the universe, and then something utterly impossible sneaks in and ruins everything.
2. My all-time worst book is "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. You would think that I, an English major in college, would have loved it, but I found it dull, dull, dull. And I had to finish it because it was for a class. I recently saw a list on GoodReads of "Books You Were Forced To Read and Would Rather Have Had A Root Canal." Add "Middlemarch" to that list, please. I'm also not that into (shock, horror), Jane Austen. I think her books are dry and difficult to read.
3. Some books have been so heavily hyped that I purchased them and then regretted wasting the money. Two examples are "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik and "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers.
The most overrated book I have purchased is "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. I have never cared much for self-help books but this one was hyped to such an extent that I though it must have value. What a bunch of psychobabble it turned out to be.
The most overrated book I have NOT purchased is "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne.
4. I have a passion for true crime books (and also a fascination with serial killers). The best true crime book I have read is "Strange Piece of Paradise", written by Terri Jentz, one of the victims of a horrific crime. While camping, Jentz and a friend were brutally attacked by a man wielding an axe. She spent years tracking him down, and though he has never been convicted, she believes she has found the right man. Warning, this book is not for the faint of heart. Jentz often revisits that blood- and gore-soaked night of two near axe-murders, and the portrait of the psychotic (accused) killer is very disturbing.
5. The first book I can remember owning is a Little Golden Book called "Baby Susan's Chicken". Unlike her siblings' chickens, Susan's chicken wouldn't lay eggs, but all's well that ends well: He turns out to be a rooster. In first grade, I won a blue ribbon in a county competition for my recitation of "Seven Diving Ducks." One of my favorite children's books was "Make Way for Ducklings". Did I have an obsession with fowl?
6. One of the best books my book club has read in the past couple of years is "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. One of the best books my book club is going to read this year (courtesy of moi), is "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows.
7. A book I have been pushing on everyone lately is "The Red Leather Diary" by Lily Koppel. Koppel, a NY Times Reporter, found an old diary written by Florence Wolfson when she was a teenager in the 1930s. Koppel tracks down Wolfson and finds her still alive and living in Florida. The book is a wonderful portrait of NYC and of free-spirited Miss Wolfson.
8. If you want to be in my good graces, don't ever combine the words "Danielle Steele" and "good writer" in the same sentence.
9. I loved Oprah's book club when it was in its heyday and for a long time I kept up with reading them all. If pressed, I would say the best among them include "Stones From the River" by Ursula Hegi and "Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris. But Oprah did pick some doozies, including "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen.
10. In my teens and 20s, I loved Gothic novels and gobbled up every book written by Victoria Holt. I also loved Mary Stewart, who wrote more modern mystery/romance/thrillers, with heroines who were independent, intelligent and sophisticated. My first Stewart book at 16 - and still favorite to this day - is "The Moonspinners." Enticing locales like Greece, France, Syria, Austria, Scotland, or even good old England, created dramatic backdrops to the stories.
11. I love trilogies (and beyond), including the "Stonewylde" series by Kit Berry, the Fair Isle Sisters series by Susan Carroll and the "Odd Thomas" series by Dean Koontz. (I must be the only girl/woman in the world not to have read "The Twilight" series. But I will.) However, as much as I loved the previously-mentioned "Outlander", about a WWII nurse who unexpectedly time travels to 1740s Scotland and meets the love of her life, the sequels got progressively worse. I never even purchased the last book.
12. I am known as "The Book Nazi" by certain members of my book club who get upset that I chide them for not reading the book (not finishing, or worse, never even starting it). When you are in a book club, you read the book, right? Isn't that a given?
I recently made a concerted effort to push my GoodReads list over 1,000. I think I have 1,025 books listed now. This link will take you to my list: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1202093?/shelf=. I still haven't finished going through all the stacks in my house, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the books I read before I lost my possessions in a fire in 1982, but it's a start. It may seem like a lot of books, but considering that I was a pretty good reader by age 9, that's only about 20 books a year for 50 years. Even these days, I read closer to 40 books a year.