Monday, August 31, 2009

A Matter of Taste


I remember pressing my copy of Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES on a friend a few years ago.

"Read it! It's beautifully written--you'll love it," I said.

My friend hesitated. "It's about a kid who gets murdered, isn't it?"

"Well, yes..." I said. "But it's brilliant. Really. You should read it."

But my friend refused. There are some subject matters that we all find ourselves unwilling to read, no matter what. For my friend, it was child murder. I've seen others shy away from child abuse (A CHILD CALLED IT was a hot debate topic among my readerly friends not so long ago), from rape (even when not graphic, such as Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK), and other topics that touch a nerve. Even if the material is written brilliantly, as THE LOVELY BONES is, or even if the ultimate message is very positive, such as in SPEAK, the subject matter itself is something that some people cannot breach.

For me, none of these real-life topics bother me.

Nope.

For me, it's a matter of genre.

Although I love a good paranormal or fantasy novel, there are some subjects that, no matter what, I just won't be able to enjoy. I try. But--with very few exceptions--there are some topics that just turn me off.

First: vampires. Never been a fan. And even though there's some truly brilliant vampire stuff out there (especially now), I just can't be bothered. I've got a few vampire books that I consider wonderful, a few that I think might be wonderful but haven't touched because of the subject (THE HISTORIAN being top of that list). There's just something about the whole nature of vampires that is...unappealing to me. I wouldn't say boring, but it's a subject that just simply doesn't interest me.

Second: angels. But for an entirely different reason. For me, I've got some very specific beliefs about angels--one of the top being that they're not people with wings, and therefore unlikely to fall in love with teenage girls. And although some of my favorite authors have written quite well on the topic of angels, I haven't been able to enjoy most titles dealing with angels--in fact, I rarely get past the subject description before putting the book back on the shelf.

Of course, there are exceptions. The wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith has written about both vampires and angels, and I found both of her novels wonderful. And while I rag on Stephenie Meyers constantly, I do consider the first volume well done. But in general, books about either vampires or angels tend to turn me off the same way my friend was turned off by a book dealing with child murder.

It's just a matter of taste.

So, what book topics out there are just unappealing or uninteresting to you?

22 comments:

Christina Farley said...

Very interesting topic. I guess angels would be for me. Maybe it's my religious background but to alter the whole angel thing is a turn off.

I used to say I never liked vampire books, but honestly the only ones I've read were Myers and I only read them because they were so popular. But, I really did enjoy the books in the end. Sure I have my quibbles about them, but then I'm such a picky reader. Oh, I've read Cynthia's first one too.

And maybe talking animals. The only author I liked who did this was CS Lewis (who is AMAZING!) and then the book Watership Down, lovely story.

Amy Tate said...

Great post! So true. One of the most difficult things I had to deal with last year at my children's school, was the reading list. I know, I know, some books are more literary than others, but my ten year old son doesn't get into Black Beauty. It's not that Black Beauty isn't a great book, it's just not up his alley. This year's fourth grade teacher is allowing him to read the Attack of the Clones in the Star Wars series. You should see him...he's a different kid with a totally different attitude toward reading this year.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I think we are talking about two different things here. Taste is, indeed, our individual preferences in genre or subject matter. But certain topics, especially child abuse and murder, can be emotionally disturbing and some people can't go there without agony. That's something that goes beyond taste.

Anonymous said...

Oh, but I hope you'll give The Historian a try! Yes it's about vampires, but not the kind of vampires you think! It's very much about Vlad the Impaler and the historical context with a little bit of the fantastic thrown in.

Heather Zundel said...

Books told from the bad guy's perspective. Can't write it, can't read it. I really just don't want to be inside their heads that close.

PJ Hoover said...

Great post, Beth!

I was thinking you'd mention Cynthia's books as exceptions. They are brilliantly written.

My tastes in books and movies changed drastically after I popped out my first kid. I cannot watch serial killer movies and the such. I don't want to see kids getting murdered. Ditto with books which is why I haven't picked up THE LOVELY BONES. I doubt I will. Pre-kids thought, I don't think it would have fazed me in the least.

T. Anne said...

I read the book a while back and couldn't put it down. I didn't care for her next novel though.

Davin Malasarn said...

I try so hard to get into science fiction--mostly because all my friends love it--but I just can't. I try and try again, and will probably continue to try, though.

Trisha Pearson said...

I mostly avoid books with excessive violence. I probably wouldn't read any book with a soldier POV and I definitetly wouldn't read anything that was about the mafia or gangs. I'm not a big fan of serial killers or true crime either. (shudders)

Miriam S.Forster said...

I think the only specific topic I shy away from is women whose husbands die. It gets me all insecure and paranoid.

Other than that, I mostly just have a depresso-meter. If a book depresses me for too long, I stop.

Robyn Campbell said...

It's violence for me. Especially violence to children. I just can't take it. But I might give this one a try. If I don't like it, I know where you have coffee. :)

Jessica Kennedy said...

For me it's the "know you're going to die" or "it's just too sad" books like: The Time Travelers Wife, My Sisters Keeper, and P.S. I Love You.

These are a few that I will not read because I know I'll cry or have to face the emotion of losing a loved one. I will not do that to myself.

If it involves the death of a child I will stop reading it.

ElanaJ said...

I'm not a huge fan of women who act like men. There. I said it. All these kick-A women kinda bug me. I want my girls to be strong and passionate--but not men. You know?

lotusgirl said...

I'm really not a fan of Zombies. Although I hear such great reviews for the Forest of Hands and teeth that I'm tempted to read it. I prefer not to read about angels too. I avoided the Twilight series for a long time because I'm not a fan of vampires either, but I enjoyed the first and third of those quite a bit.

Danyelle said...

I'm not a fan of child abuse. I nearly didn't make it through Gossamer--which was a brilliant book. Zombies, women who (by their characterization) ought to be men, horror, or erotica. I usually don't like vampires--especially because most of them have high blushable content. I love Terry Pratchett's Black Ribbon League of vampires though. :D

Shelli said...

young kids being kidnapped.

storyqueen said...

stuff that's really boring. I know that probably goes without saying, but for me, it's more of a style turn-off thing. I read to escape, to be inspired, to relax.......if I feel like the reading of something wasted what little time I have....ooooooohhhh...that really grinds my pepper!

Shelley

Michelle said...

Ok, Ok, I've never been into romance, erotica, or any combination of the two...harlequin novels-not for me. And someone mentioned stories about kids being kidnapped - would keep me up at night worrying about my son. And not into anything that's super violent.

nomadshan said...

I always said I wouldn't read a book with dragons in it, and then my brother tricked me into reading George R R Martin's A Game of Thrones. I was deeply hooked when the dragon showed up. I threw a fit. Then I read the next three in the series (though I still tend to skim the dragon bits).

Vivian said...

The Lovely Bones is a beautiful book. I loved it and if anything, it gave me a sense of peace, despite the underlying horror of it. It's wasn't my typical read and I was glad I tried it.

Kelly H-Y said...

So, so true. For me, it's the same as your friend. I was finally convinced to read 'The Shack' and it tore me apart. I wouldn't be able to do it again.

Marian said...

Totally agree on the vampires. I think the last such novel I read was Anne Rice's "The Tale of the Body Thief" and by then I was little tired of the angsty type of vampire. I also didn't want to read about them falling in love with feisty human females.

But I did enjoy the anime series "Hellsing", partly because the vampire in it isn't at all angsty or likely to fall in love with anyone. If there was a book with such a vampire, I'd read it.