Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Books for Everyone by Marie-Louise Jensen

I never cease to be amazed by how different people’s reading tastes are. Put a random group of people in a room and give them a list of books to read. Then ask them to put them in order of how much they enjoyed them. You’re very unlikely to get any two with the same list.
Some love romance, others find it boring or embarrassing. Many people love a good weep, others hate it. Some like to be challenged, to find a book difficult to read and to be made to think about issues, morals and difficult choices. Others want to escape into a fluffy, happy book world to escape reality. Others like something in between or a variety.
I know readers who think all fantasy is stupid. I myself struggle with books that have a school setting. Historical fiction is another divide. It’s some people’s passion and total, unalleviated boredom for others.
The difference in reactions to books is not just a male-female divide either, of course. It’s far more complex than that. Yes, there are girl-books and boy-books on the market. Once you get beyond the 9-12 age bracket, almost all books are gender targeted. And we all know that while many girls will read ‘boy’ books, it’s far harder to get boys to read girl books. But you won’t get a group of girls or a group of boys who like all the same books either. My two sons like completely different authors, and have completely different personalities. They only one they can agree on is Horowitz - but even then not on which of his books are best.
The more I think about it the more I think the diversity in books and reading tastes is to be welcomed and embraced. Something for everyone, reflecting our individuality and celebrating our differences.
I don’t envy the Carnegie judges their decision due to be announced tomorrow. How do a panel of diverse judges manage to agree on a choice of 'best' book they are not the target audience for? Rather them than me.


Nick Green said...

It's strange. Something happened to me in my early twenties that transformed my reading tastes. I suddenly realised that I no longer cared about the 'about-ness' of a novel. I didn't care when or where it was set, or whether it was fantasy, reality or magic realism, historical or science fiction. Suddenly the only thing that mattered to me was the authorial voice (I won't say 'How well the book was written', but I almost did). If the voice grabs me, I'll follow it anywhere. In fact, I get impatient when people say they won't read such-and-such kinds of story. Just like when my four-year-old says he won't eat any breakfast cereal. I say, 'But you haven't even TRIED it!'

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

I completely agree. But even within a genre, no group of readers will be able to agree on which books are fantastic and which are rubbish. You've only got to look at amazon reviews for popular books - they all have the full range of 1 to 5 stars.

Nick Green said...

> But even within a genre, no group of readers will be able to agree on which books are fantastic and which are rubbish.

True. But some of those readers are right, and some of them are wrong! ;-)