Is it possible that reading in huge quantities can make really good books seem just okay? I feel like when we read a ton it just raises our expectations. Or shifts them. I read so many really great books, because I have a good idea of what I like, but very few books that blow my mind. I think I even have the math to prove this! My handy dandy reading tracker says my average rating for the 30 books I’ve read so far this year is a 3.79. Only two of them were 5’s.
So, what’s the solution? Is this just what happens if we keep raising the bar for the books we read? Do we need to be more ruthless, or is this just bound to happen?
Oh Shannon, what a difficult, terrible question! I do think that the more I read the more critical I become and the more difficult it is to totally blow me away. I think that this is a side effect of wading through so many books. There is no good answer, because I’m still going to read as much as I possibly can.
It’s just bound to happen.
I think it’s almost bound to happen as well. When you read in great quantity you’re more likely to read that one book that will ruin all others. (Ahem…A Little Life.) I’ve read 31 books so far this year. I’ve marked 5 of them as 5 star reads. I could probably adjust at least 2 of those. (Which is why I rarely rate books, I end up changing my mind after a little reflection.)
This must be where “the art of writing” comes in. Even with lighter books that I pick up purely for entertainment value, I have expectations. I think those expectations and standards are different with genre fiction than they would be with, say, literary fiction or classics. Not better or worse, just different.
I’m thinking more about the “do I need to be more ruthless?” question. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that when you read so much so often, you get very, very good at spotting books you’ll enjoy and choosing according to your current mood. That’s probably going to push more of your ratings toward the higher end. Also, although what we read ends up influencing our expectations, it’s ultimately not a competition. Books are individuals.
I’m not sure if I think it’s us or the books this year. I think, with the exception of a few outstanding books, it’s been a very slow year for great reading. Out of 34 books so far I’ve only had three 5 stars. Of course, stars are a whole other subject because I don’t necessarily like how Goodreads defines them.
Stars aside I do get the feeling sometimes, as I’m reading, that before I started reading for review I probably would have been all right with this book but now? No. I never used to DNF books and now I do. I may not be getting paid to write reviews, but my time is valuable to me. In that way, I am more ruthless and I probably expect more from authors. Even with light reading, if the writing is bad I won’t stick with it. I know chick lit is a term some people dislike but for me it’s not pejorative and I expect my chick lit to be good!
I’m a fan of being ruthless. Years ago I’d finish everything. Now, I know better. I don’t have time for books that don’t work for me. I feel like I give everything a fair shake but I won’t stick around if I feel myself rolling my eyes more than once or if I cringe at a terrible turn of phrase. So yeah, my bar has been raised. As Monika mentioned, I’ve gotten better at knowing what works for me. I think that’s a good thing.
I think Monika’s idea of treating books as individuals is an important one, which is why I don’t use star ratings on my blog and really only keep star ratings on my spreadsheet (for data!). Maybe I end up comparing my reading experiences? It can be hard to follow up a really amazing book with a…great book. Even if they’re completely different, incomparable titles the amazing reading experience will always feel like the “winner”.
So, readers, is this something you’ve encountered? Have you raised the bar so high that almost nothing comes close to meeting your expectations? Does it feel like a problem to you or is it something you expect to deal with?