The problem with acclaimed books

I’ve read a lot of books lately, and I’ve learned that the best way to judge a book is by how much and how quickly you read it.

Although The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a short book anyway, I found myself unable to put it down and read the majority of it in a day. I normally read for an hour in the evening, but if a book is making you want to wake up earlier in the morning to read, pick it up whenever you have ten minutes during the day, and making you think about reading it when you’re not, you know you’re onto a good one. There are a few others I’ve experienced a similar thing with recently, and have used my speed reading to try and get onto some novels which I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while.

I bought Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie about a year ago and finally picked it up this week. I was on page 53 when I gave up reading it. I used to refuse to give up reading books, making an exception for only Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, because there was nothing prideful about it whatsoever. Recently I’ve taken a more laid back attitude to reading and acknowledged I could be reading something much more interesting if I didn’t force myself to the ends of books I’m not enjoying.

In this book, the character who narrates is writing about his life (a book within a book) and discusses his parent’s lives individually, building up to the time when they meet. His wife comments on how long this is taking him and I couldn’t help but feel Rushdie should have taken his own fictional character’s advice and sped things up. For a long novel, he wastes a lot of time and doesn’t seem in a hurry to start the story off with any rush, which makes me think most of the pages are a little pointless and the whole thing should have been cut down. But that’s just my preference. My point is, that this book, along with Jane Austen, is commonly listed as one of those ‘read this in your lifetime’ books, and I’ve disliked both.

Too much emphasis is put on books that critics throughout history have liked, and too much expectation is then put on those books, often making them a let down. Dracula was another, as was Slaughterhouse 5, both of which I tried and failed to get into.

My favourite books have been ones whose authors I had not heard of before reading and have chosen at random, and although this isn’t a method I’ll exclusively stick to, I’m more likely to search for books based on their personal appeal rather than their acclaimed quality.

That said, I loved The Grapes of Wrath and have been convinced to read To Kill A Mockingbird next. I think varied reading is good, but don’t be fooled into status reading – reading something just because everyone thinks you generally should. Think of the last time everyone read something because everyone else was – we ended up with 50 Shades of Grey on display everywhere. Point proven? I think so.


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