10 Bookish Hills Upon Which I am Prepared to Die

Gentle Reader, I decided I wanted to blog about the 10 things that I deeply believe as a reader (as opposed to an author).

I know, it’s amazing, but guess what? I get to be BOTH!

10 Bookish Hills Upon Which I am Prepared to Die

1. Novels are part of the entertainment industry.

Thus the defining factor is: was I entertained? Did I like it? Why or why not? Did it accomplish what it was trying to do as a representative of its genre? As a work of fiction? Did I find it boring?

2. Novels are subjective.

Books cannot be objectively defined as good or bad, they can only be defined as well written or badly written and even then it’s a matter of genre conventions. The reader ALWAYS brings themselves to to novel and their understanding of it.

3. No one book is for everyone.

No. Really. Just because I love it with a mad passion doesn’t mean everyone else has to. Although I will still crow about it a lot.

4. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.

See #3. I can always dislike a book because it didn’t work for me, because it disagreed with my world view, was badly edited, etc… But it’s not my responsibility to take that as an excuse to “fix” someone else’s opinion.

Time is better spent reading the next book than arguing over the worthiness of the last.

Books that bring comfort are just as important as books that bring excitement or deep thought

5. Books that bring comfort are just as important as books that bring excitement or deep thought.

Humans have an instinct to take narratives and genres more seriously if they have sad, depressing, or amorphous endings. This is the same part of the brain that makes writers focus on the one bad review when compared to all the good ones. This results in a systemic social weakness because critics, academics, and society prioritize, reward, and value certain genres over others. (And I talk about why in The Heroine’s Journey.) But…


6. You don’t have to keep the book.

You don’t have to keep it if you aren’t going to finish it. You don’t have to keep it if you have finished it. And you don’t have to keep it if you aren’t ever going to read it. It’s okay to let a book go.

7. You never never never have to finish a book.

Unless it’s for school or review or some outside professional obligation. But if you’re reading for pleasure… it should be pleasurable. If it isn’t, stop.

8. Learning about novels should answer the “why” question.

Speaking of… if you’re assigned novels as part of a curriculum the important thing to know is why the book matters as a piece of art and entertainment for its place and time.

  • Did the book have impact on culture?
  • Did it effect change?
  • Did it help define genres still being read today?
  • Did it sell well?
  • Why was it popular or not?

No book is intrinsically worthy. And if you’re assigned to read something in school the onus is on the professor to explain WHY that novel is considered worth studying.

It’s always okay to ask the question:

Why should I read this?

9. Jane Austen wrote romance.

Not only that, she wrote and established 6 of the most popular romance tropes. She also used both romance and humor to engage with social commentary.

10. I find many of the “first” or historically defined “best” and “greatest” novels dull.

I think The Lord of the Rings is boring, but so is Grapes or Wrath, Tale of Two Cities, The Red & the Black. That’s because I find books where the author plays with language as part of the narrative excessively dull. This is an entirely personal thing. I dislike modern jazz for the same reason. I’m not into the artist/writer/musician noodling about with their own talent for the sake of the talent itself.

But that’s my hang up, not theirs. But that’s okay, because ya know what? I don’t have to read them. See point #2.

Yours (nevertheless still destined to be killed by a tumbling TBR pile),

Miss Gail 

This post inspired by this post from Book Riot,

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7 Responses

  1. Heather Nott said:

    Audible isn’t selling Reticence in Australia. Is this something you can fix? Considering they have the rest of the series, it’s especially frustrating.

  2. Beth Overmyer said:

    Hear, hear! All great points. I’ve been DNF-ing more and more books lately, after it finally got through to me that life is to short to read something you don’t enjoy if you don’t have to. And yes, Jane Austen sure did write romance! <3 Also, it's awesome getting to pen the words and then change gears and be a reader. With some books it's easier to turn my writer's brain off than with others, though.

  3. Joan McDougall said:

    “7. You never never never have to finish a book.”

    This took what seems like a long time for me to really get it. I got it first with library books, it took longer for books I’d spent actual money on.

    Also sometimes for whatever reason it’s the wrong time for me to read something. I remember trying to read something shortly after I was first married that I just could not get through. Five or so years later I picked it up again and had no idea what the previous problem had been.

  4. Judy Sanders said:

    It’s good to know that I’m not alone in valuing books that leave me feeling upbeat when I finish them. Those are the ones I keep and read over and over. “Serious” books are like watching Schindler’s List; yes it was a good movie and I’m glad I watched it, but I don’t ever want to see it again. And everybody has different tastes, yes! I like Lord of the Rings, I don’t like the Asimov Foundation series. My brother is the exact opposite, he can’t get through LOTR at all and he loves Foundation. For me, there is only one truly bad book–the book sold without a warning label like “part 1” or “1 of 3” where the author just abruptly ends the story in the middle with all loose ends hanging, not even a gesture toward resolution, and the publisher sells it like that, then years go by and the author never finishes the story. I’ve bought three books like that, and that is the one deadly sin that will put me off a writer forevermore. That’s the only way I can think of that a writer can cheat a reader. Everything else is just what each person likes or doesn’t like, and if it’s not to my taste I can gift it on to someone else to enjoy.

  5. Bruce Cotter said:

    Loved the destined to be killed by a tumbling TBR pile! comment. A few years ago I took a course in Islamic art and literature and read about a scholar who died in his 90’s when a pile of books in his library fell on him. My son told me that was the perfect way for me to go!!! Fortunately nowhere near my 90s!!

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