Why read?

why read and an empty chair

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The last book I finished was Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season. From the reviews, it appears Shannon’s first novel has split readers straight down the middle. You either like it or you don’t. I’m in the camp that liked it.

This post is not, however, about the book itself. It is about some of the reviews that appear on Goodreads.

One reviewer has reacted to The Bone Season so negatively and with such vehemence, I couldn’t not look at what else this person is reading. What I found has left me completely stunned. The average star rating for the last ten books read is 2.3. and there are nearly 250 books with one star ratings before you find a book with two stars. My reaction to this is disbelief and sadness.

It is clear from the titles and the genres they fit into that I would probably give them the same rating. The difference though, is that I wouldn’t keep reading them. It would seem a logical conclusion that if books of this ilk make your “skin crawl” or you “hate” the main character for their misogyny and abuse of women, or if a book is racist (here referencing the second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die) you would cease to read them. Assign them to the ‘life’s to short’ pile and go in search of something better.

This same reviewer also goes into great detail about what the author has done wrong but offers no constructive criticism about what the improvements could be. Having already noticed the pattern of negative reviews and the cheap, trashy novels with only beautiful people or strange space creatures on the cover, combined with comments about the legitimacy of whether they should be published I can only wonder why this reviewer bothers reading anything.

It also makes me wonder how much time the reader has that they are able to spend so much time reading what, clearly, makes a pleasurable past time so awful. There really is so much good writing, published and unpublished, I feel quite sad they fill their hours with what makes them miserable.

If you’re reading books that make you miserable and the only emotion you experience is anger or disgust, surely it defeats the purpose.

Now I know not every book is going to be a master piece. You only have to look at the books I have reviewed here on this blog to see examples of that but there have been moments where I have laughed out loud on the tube – moments where I have shed a tear, again on the tube and most recently, in the privacy of my own home, turned into a mascara streaked, snotty mess because of the power of Richard Flanagan’s prose. For me, these are the reactions I seek. Not the angry, throw the book in the bin over and over and over again.

Each to their own I guess.

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