Books are fun

I like to read books. I’ve only recently realized that’s not something I talk about much on my blog and I found it odd because reading is such a big part of my daily life. Since I try to be honest I felt it was time to give books their own little post (well, maybe not so little).

I read because I have fun doing it. From talking to people over the years I’ve come to realize that reading and fun are not always considered compatible and I don’t understand that. I know a lot of people have to read certain books for school or work, like I did, and reading as an obligation really is an terrible form of punishment, so I get that they’d rather do something else for fun after that – after all, between music, movies, TV and games there’s all sorts of shiny forms of entertainment to choose from, so a book may seem boring by comparison – but after a time, once the trauma is forgotten, to simply dismiss books as entertainment seems limiting, and I think these people may resent reading simply because they never found the right kind of book.

Other people think that if you read a lot you must be an intellectual. Why? Just because you know how to read? It makes no sense to me. There are all kinds of books. Some are classics, acknowledged by all as masterpieces of literature. Some are porn. Then there’s pretty much everything in between – comedy, drama, romance, mystery, horror, biography and anything else you can think of. You just have to find what kind of stuff you like and go with that.

I think the problem is that we’re influenced by each other and our culture and if everyone says something is good we feel we should like it. If we don’t we think maybe we’re stupid and don’t get what all the hype is about. Well, I’ve learned a long time ago that what is good and what I like are often very different things. Good is something that is well made (a book that’s well written, a painting with an amazing technique, a movie that’s visually stunning or has an interesting plot) but it may not reach me on an emotional level and I don’t like it. I can appreciate its quality and praise the work but it leaves me cold otherwise. And then I like things that I know are not that great – a sappy movie, a book with too many clichés – but something clicks into place inside me and it makes me happy, sad, whatever, and I can say that I liked it and possibly want to repeat the experience (a book you read again, a movie you watch over and over). So I think people should stop trying to read something just because everyone else is saying it’s amazing and find something that makes them happy, whatever that may be.

One of the reasons I don’t talk about books much is because I read a lot of crap. I know they’re not great and I don’t care. They make me laugh or tear up and I enjoy that and it’s enough. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone but I’m not a book reviewer so that’s fine.

I tend to read more during the summer because I like natural light and the days are longer. It’s also something that was left from being a kid because for most of the year I was too busy with school to have much time to read for fun. It was only during the summer months that I would be able to pick what I wanted to read. Like I mentioned on a previous post, I started with Agatha Christie mystery novels. I’ve got an obsessive personality and love to read series with the same characters or set in the same world so I didn’t stop until I read all the Agatha Christie books I could find (my aunt had a huge collection so that was easy enough) and to this day I’m a huge fan of Miss Marple. After that I started reading what was available at home, mostly ScyFi and tried some Jules Verne but didn’t have the patience for it.

I read a couple of Enid Blyton’s famous five but didn’t have many – I need to get the full collection one of these days – and had my first book crush on the character Langelot in a French teen spy series by an author writing under the name of Lieutenant X (Vladimir Volkoff).

During my teen years I got into fantasy thanks to The Lord of the Rings and later into the paranormal with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. After reading an interview with Tori Amos I tried reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics and to this day he remains one of my favorite authors. From reading Good Omens (the funniest book ever) I also became a fan of  Terry Pratchett and read nearly all of his Discworld books plus a few others (did i mention how much I like series?).

During my college years I watched the now famous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and the wonderful Jennifer Ehle and became a fan of Jane Austen. I’ve read all her books several times and wish she’d written more.

After being mocked by my mother at an early age for reading a teen romance, I had spent years avoiding the genre until I fell in love with Austen’s books, the queen of romantic comedies. I finally admited to myself that I liked romances, especially the kind that ends well, but still felt a bit self-conscious about it to truly embrace it at this point. I read Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Our Mutual Friend, and some other classics (thanks to the cheap edition Penguin books that I started to collect) and I loved them all.

Among the classics I read, the other author that stands out is Oscar Wilde – the man certainly had a way with words and was funny as hell. I don’t particularly like the children’s stories because they’re too depressing but I love most of the plays and was fortunate enough to be able to go see ‘A Woman of no Importance’ starring Rupert Graves during a trip to London.

More recently I’ve come to love another author who is also a fan of Wilde and shares his taste and talent for wit and playful language  – Stephen Fry. His novels are a bit darker and more brutal than I expected but it’s a good kind of kick in the gut and also terribly funny. You can tell how much fun the man has in choosing his words and the end result flows like melted chocolate. I usually care more about the plot and characters than I do about the way a book is written but with Stephen Fry, as with Oscar Wilde, half the fun is in the writing itself.

I still have plans to read other authors I never got to – I hear Virginia Woolf is surprisingly funny, for example – but as life got more complex, thanks to two kids, and time got shorter, I opted for the easy way out and finally gave in to the pull of trashy romance novels. They’re easy to get through, predictable, fun, and there’s thousands to choose from. As I don’t care for stories where the heroes are soldiers, pirates or cowboys – and in the romance novel world you could not throw a pebble into a stadium covered in books without hitting one of those – so I went with what I’ve always liked – vampires, werewolves and other mythical creatures – and dived into the wonderful world of Paranormal Romance, commonly known as PNR.

It started with Twilight. I noticed a lot of people were trashing the first movie, so naturally I decided to watch it. I wanted in on the joke. And yes, vampires that glitter are just giving all vampires a bad name but otherwise I actually got into the story. Yes, it’s kinda creepy and the guy is a dangerous stalker and all that, but it’s fiction and danger is always welcome in romantic fiction. After that I bought the books and I liked them so much I read them twice (OK, the second time I may have jumped a few bits, but still). I couldn’t tell you why I liked it so much because there’s a lot in there that bugs me, like the whole preachy thing about no sex before marriage and so on. Still, the romantic aspects of the book work really well if you like that sort of thing and I seem to for some reason. Some people like soap operas or sports, I like this and I’m done apologizing for it.

Soon after, my brother lent me his collection of Sookie Stackhouse books. I had seen the first season of True Blood and didn’t like it much but I was in a vampire mood so I gave it a shot. I liked the books a lot more than the TV show and consumed them quickly. There’s more sex and violence than Twilight (the main difference between a teen novel and an adult novel is how much sex there is in the book) but once the fairies come into the plot  I started to lose interest. I love the character of Erik, however, and I was glad when Sookie began to agree with me. The book where he loses his memory is my favorite and I spent some time giggling uncontrollably at some of the scenes. I find it interesting that I don’t usually giggle at anything other than funny scenes in books.

Soon enough I started reading any PNR I could get my hands on and I’ve gone through several series in the last year. Some are OK, some are really fun and some are a bit on the dull side but I keep a book with me at all times (the kindle has made it so much easier), even if all I manage is a couple of lines in between changing diapers, getting juice or changing DVDs. Having a nice escapist fantasy world to go back to when I can keeps me sane and prevents resentment toward my kids for not giving me enough free time to even watch a 20 minute episode of a damn sitcom much less a whole movie.

I also read some erotica last year and it was fun for about a week, but the lack of plot and tendency towards threesomes and BDSM (stuff I’m not really into) made me laugh at times but otherwise just made me realize that’s it’s not entirely my cup of tea. I have no problem with sex in books and even find that it can make a relationship in a story more believable, but I’d rather have it in the middle of a story and something more emotionally involved that just plain porn. I did find it interesting to discover that women seem to prefer their porn in book form while men like the visual versions better. I guess women care enough about a guy’s face to want to picture in in their heads rather than have the whole fantasy collapse from the wrong casting 🙂

I may write another post about all the PNR series I’ve read so far even if it’s just to keep track of what I read and whether or not I liked them. Occasionally I write a review for one of the books on Goodreads but for me it makes more sense to talk about a whole series than a single book so I’ll do that here. Feel free to ignore my rants on the subject.

There’s a list of the books I remember reading here. It only goes  up to July 2011 because I started keeping track on Goodreads after that.

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  1. já experimentaste fanfiction? depois de ler twilight, andei a procurar mais coisas do género e deparei-me com essa comunidade, que basicamente se dedica a continuar as histórias ou a dar outra vida às personagens, pô-las noutras situações, etc. acho giro, e em alguns casos, acho a prosa e as situações melhores que as versões originais.

    anyway, é só uma dica 🙂

  2. Li alguma fan fiction há ja bastantes anos, quando andava a ver a série da Buffy e divertia-me imenso com aquilo mas entretanto não voltei a procurar sobre mais nada. Há tantos livros para ler que acabo por não ter a necessidade de fazer isso mas se alguma vez ficar suficientemente obcecada com alguma das séries vou ver se me lembro de procurar 🙂

  3. E Stephen King? Dentro do terror/paranormal, nem tanto o romance, mas escreve bastante bem. Sou suspeita, porque tenho uma verdadeira obsessão com o senhor e os livros dele, tenho-os quase todos.

  4. Admito que nunca li nenhum do Stephen King mas vi diversas adaptações de cinema e TV e devo dizer que as histórias nunca me entusiasmaram. Ler o livro é sempre diferente mas se a atmosfera, personagens ou desenrolar da história não me interessa muito vou adiando e lendo outras coisas pelo meio 🙂

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