Last Wednesday, we talked about what the sorts of books we possess and how they are arranged on our shelves give insights into us. Today, we’ll go a little deeper.
Of the books on your bookshelf, or on your e-reader, that you actually read, what do they say about you? Or, to put this another way, what is it about them that appeals to you?
Thinking back to all the books I’ve read and am currently reading—Yes, I read multiple books at once—there are a few common threads.
When I was a child, I religiously consumed books from The Boxcar Children. When I got a little older, it became Star Wars, Star Trek, and Hank the Cowdog. With the exception of Michael Crichton, whose books I started on in the 4th grade, and a few other rare exceptions like Shadow of the Fox, I touched nothing else that school did not require I read. My aunts, grandmother, and mother were desperate for me to read almost anything else. They insisted I needed more variety. But within my, albeit limited, reading selection, I gleaned a great deal. As much as I loved the ideas and adventure, I read all my series because I loved the characters. In a way, I experienced vicariously different approaches to life through them in a safe environment. Besides that, for a girl with few friends, returning to my favorite characters was a true comfort.
As far as Hank the Cowdog was concerned, I must admit, I read, or rather listened to on John Erickson’s fabulous audio recordings, for the sheer hilarity of Hank and what he believed were his awesome and crucial missions for the ranch. Even as an adult, I still enjoy this series and not just for fond memories. My dad and I can be caught quoting the books nearly two decades later and chuckling over Hank’s antics.
As I matured into my teens and adult years, I still steered toward series: The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Mercy Thompson, Harry Potter, and others. I still like to have my fictional friends.
But, much to my female relatives’ delight, I have expanded my reading. I now read from multiple genres and authors. But all of them have two things in common: good characterization and some exploration of relationships. While I love romantic relationships, I also enjoy familial and friendships. The fastest way to get me to put down a book is to show me or tell me that the characters are not well drawn and do not develop over the course of the story.
If you peruse the fiction section of my shelves, you will find the books I keep have these qualities. The books I reread possess them in greater abundance. The only exceptions to this are books that are classics in the genres I love most, like Asimov.
But why does this type of books appeal to me so much? Perhaps it’s because I’m a girl. Yes, I know I’m stereotyping myself, but in this instance, it holds some truth. My many male friends who are voracious readers are not nearly so into great characterization and relationships. But this goes deeper for me. Growing up, as I indicated before, I had few constant friends and tended to lose many others along the way. I learned to appreciate and love dearly those treasured individuals that remained friends with me in the long term. Additionally, my family is very important to me and greatly influenced and continues to influence who I am and the values I hold. For me, they are a pillar of my being that I would never wish to demolish or take for granted. Also, I’m fascinated by the way people work as individuals and in interaction with others, hence, my many psych classes in college. This combination suggests a good basis for why I like the sorts of books that I do.
So, looking at your shelves, what is the common thread in the books you read? What is it about them that calls to you? And why?