August 22, 2014

Stories We Love, Stories We Don't

I was chatting with Rissi recently, over at her blog, and during the convo my mind started whirring. We were talking about books that we thought we wanted to read once upon a time and now we don't. Somewhere in there I mentioned that I think reading should be pleasurable. Meaning that if you don't want to read a book, then don't! (I know. Totally new concept, right? ;) And that started me thinking about the how's and why's and wherefore's of pleasure reading. I then proceeded to bombard Rissi's comment section with lengthy paragraphs. As I didn't want to keep pestering her, y'all get to read my thought processes instead! (I just know how much you love when I blather on about some topic or other.)


The paragraph that started it is as follows: "That's one thing I find so fascinating about stories. Certain ones we seem to enjoy better at certain times of our lives. Kind of like how friendships come and go, so do stories. There's a quote I read once that says something about how stories we liked when we were a child we will enjoy as an adult or something like that. What I mean is, we read a book and love it now, in a few years we may look at it and wonder why we liked it. Vice versa we might have one we can't finish now, yet in a few years it turns out to be the perfect story for then. Perhaps there are things in our lives that we relate to more at a given moment than we do at another, based on our life experiences. Whatever makes the difference it's fascinating to think about."

As I've thought about it more, I think I was on to something. What we've experienced in life makes a difference to how we relate or not relate to a story. Now I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions to this. That's a pretty broad generalization, I realize. Yet it has some merit, don't you think? Perhaps because of my mother's illness (which she was diagnosed with when I was very young), I have always been drawn to stories that dealt with serious illness, whether a teenager or an adult. Beginning with Lurlene McDaniel's books from the 90's to stories like Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt and many others today. Especially when it's a child learning how to handle a parent's illness.

Likewise, this theory may be why I still enjoy reading YA. As an adult, I can look back at those years in my life and remember going through the same emotions of confusion and happiness and just so much energy. In other words, I can relate to the characters.

Now granted, I don't always relate to every single character I enjoy reading about. But it certainly does help! :)

The other fascinating thing I mentioned above is about how we change. I've realized that it's a good thing for me to take the time every so often and go through all my books, weeding out the ones that I no longer desire to read. And sometimes those books were ones I reread and reread once upon a time! But no longer is this the case. Somewhere along the way I changed, and what once gripped my attention now does not. Take the Lurlene McDaniel books that I loved and reread over and over when I was younger, now I can't make myself even pick one up. I do have several still on my shelf out of nostalgia, but I haven't read one in years. Even as much as I love YA nowadays. So obviously those stories were something I connected with then, but no longer.

Likewise, what does not grip me today may be just what I'll connect with in a few years. It's funny how that happens actually. There have been many moments where I've seen a book when it's first published and never had a desire to read it, but later something makes me go back to it and I try it and love it! One example of this is Just As I Am by Virginia Smith. Mayla is a character that I do not relate with at all really. Her life is vastly different than anything I've ever experienced. And just going by the synopsis on the back, I was not intrigued enough to try it. But then Sincerely Mayla came out and something about it struck me. Enough to convince me to go back to the first one. And guess what? Yep, I really, really liked it after all! :)

Of course, lots of other things go into the reasons why we like this story and not that one. Sometimes I simply need to shut my mind off and read for entertainment purposes only! And as I mentioned, there's definitely a place for nostalgia about stories we remember loving when we were younger. (This is also why I have a few Lori Wick books still on my shelf even though I cannot stomach reading any of her more recent ones.) (And if you're a Lori Wick fan, I do apologize. I just simply cannot enjoy her books anymore. I hope you'll still like me anyway? :)

So! Interesting stuff, right? Food for thought and all that? Yes? No? Maybe? Okay. Moving on. Hope you're having a splendiferously wonderful Friday!



  1. Wonderful post, Kara. You make great observations and thoughts - as always, and I think it's so true that characters we relate to make the story more... alive, maybe. It just brings more "realism" to it though of course, there are some books that I read in which I don't relate to the characters, but something just impacts me in an emotional way that brings the book full circle.

    Great post - and thanks for the shout-out. You're welcome to comment anytime with as much frequency as you like over on the blog. :)

    1. Thanks, Rissi. That's a great way to put it! When we relate to a particular character, it definitely makes the story more alive. And I know what you mean. Whether I relate to the characters or not, emotional impacts can happen either way. A pretty awesome thing about stories! :)

      I always have so much fun in your comment section! ;)

  2. I can think of several instances where I've started reading a book, thought, "This is not the right time for this book for me," and set it aside to pick up another time. I've also had it happen that a book I didn't like the first time I read it, I liked a great deal when I tried it again years later -- most of Jane Austen has been that way for me, but particularly P&P. Similarly, there are books like The Fountainhead that touched me greatly when I read them, and that I'm almost afraid to read again because I think maybe they were just what I needed or wanted at that time, and now I'll be underwhelmed.

    1. Yes! I'm happy you understand what I was trying to say, Hamlette. Because that's exactly it. There are certain books that simply require the right moments for me to enjoy. And if I don't wait for that moment, I won't enjoy it. And like you said, other books I may enjoy during the first reading and then never read again because I don't want to ruin my first, glorious experience.

      As much as I love Jane Austen now, I'm pretty sure that it's a good thing I never tried one of her books in high school. Because I don't think I would have enjoyed them or even understood them then. And if I'd tried it and hated it, who knows when, if ever, I'd've tried one again? I'm very glad I waited for the right moment. And now I can thoroughly enjoy every silly, snarky, witty, romantic, sarcastic, ironic moment! ;)


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