I’ve been pondering some of my reading habits over the past week or so. Since I have so many book lovers following me with diverse tastes, I’d like to get your opinion on something.
I have a relatively low opinion of the average bestselling novels. On one hand, I’m glad those authors have found their audience and are as successful as they can be. On the other, I feel like to read their work tends often to read like Mad Libs, where basically it’s the same story again and again with different names and places filled in. They play to the lowest common denominator, so I feel somehow cheated of my time and money when I’m done reading them. That’s part of why I’m rather picky about my fiction. I want to be entertained, certainly, but I also want the story to really mean something to me, to pull me in and hold me there until the ride is over. It’s difficult to do that when authors pattern their work on someone else’s far better work. The copy of a copy of a copy is never as good as the original. Of course, for those who haven’t read the original, this is a non-issue. There’s an audience for every book, and if a book resonates with a person, who am I to say that’s wrong?
As you might imagine, that level of immersion doesn’t happen very often, hence my low opinion of bestsellers. Combine that with the absolute certainty that fact is stranger than fiction, I find myself reading a lot of history, and every now and again I throw in some science, arts, or some other branch of human (or possibly inhuman) examination. I like to learn, and there’s always more to learn. With my three different college-level experiences being worse than a joke, I feel like I’m vendetta learning, if that makes sense. As much as I enjoy the learning process, it’s also like I’m trying to prove something to myself at all turns.
This is the part where you come in.
I recently encountered something in my reading that stated that most non-fiction books are perhaps 5% new material with the other 95% pre-existing in other books. That sounds a great deal like my experience with fiction. The article in question, which I truly wish I could find it so I could link back to it for you, went on to say that it’s better to be well-read in a handful of books than to be widely read.
That’s what I want your opinion on. How do you feel about this statement? If you agree with it, which books do you believe are the ones most worth reading and why? If you don’t agree with it, why not? If you’re so inclined, please give this a think and offer up your ideas. I’d love to have them.