One of the things that has surprised me over the years is how very particular some readers are about what they read. I don’t mean that they are choosy about a particular book, but rather that they won’t read huge chunks of literature because of a perceived unattractive commonality between the books that make up that chunk.
“I don’t like fantasy.”
“I don’t read historical novels.”
“I don’t read non-fiction.”
“I don’t read fiction.”
“I don’t read Scottish novels.”
“I don’t read women writers.”
“I don’t read travel books.”
And so on.
Of course, we all have preferences. I sure read an awful lot of fantasy. But I am eternally grateful that I don’t read just a certain kind of book to the exclusion of other types. I revel in variety.
Looking back, I think I see why. I owe an awful lot to my childhood. Books were in limited supply. I only had access to a public library once I was eleven, and books in the school library were doled out as if they were too rich a diet for primary schoolchildren. One a week, or you get indigestion.
So I learned to read everything. Before I was twelve, apart from children’s books that came my way, I had devoured much of my mother’s collection – which included:
- Plays (e.g.Complete works of Galsworthy; Complete Works of George Bernard Shaw),
- Australian literature (e.g. The Getting of Wisdom, writers such as Ruth Park, Norman Lindsay, etc);
- Historical novels (e.g. Marguerite Steen and E.V.Timms, etc.);
- Thrillers (e.g.Nevil Shute);
- Non-fiction (everything from van Loon’s “The Arts of Mankind” to Ion L.Idriess)
- Biography and autobiography (everything from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom to the autobiography of a filmstar whose name I can’t remember)
- Mainstream literature (Dickens, Hemingway etc, etc.)
- Australian poetry – C.J.Dennis, Lawson, Patterson)
- Travel books, particularly Australian ones.
Throw in some of older brother’s “crime and luscious redheads” books – Carter Brown’s anyone?? – highly unsuitable reading for a ten year old girl, but – well, any book on a wet day…
In other words, just about anything.
Oddly enough, one of the genres that wasn’t on that list was romance – which may account for my lack of interest in that today. Generally, I prefer not to know the ending before I begin, I think. (Hey, but I re-read my Georgette Heyer’s…)
For me, variety is necessary.