Complicated types of taste

I don’t pretend to be very widely read anymore, because there are just SO MANY books out there, and I don’t have the time or inclination to consume them the way many others do. I don’t read books that are outside of my normal tastes very frequently, and even in some genres I only read a specific author. This doesn’t really bother me, though I do try to keep up with what’s new and interesting (or old and interesting!), because I have a certain responsibility to know what my chosen profession is doing, right?

So in my quest to remain somewhat attached to the comings and goings of the writing world, I still read books, and sometimes just for the sake of seeing what all the fuss is about. Occasionally, this means I read a really incredible book that is well worth the time and effort, and sometimes this means I am left in a state of wonderment that there should be anything considered remarkable about a book.

There isn’t a simple way to divide and define these books. What makes a person enjoy one story over another? It can be a case of fantastic characters, epic storytelling, or just a universal concept delivered in an accessible format. Maybe they are believable scenarios, or deep truths, or a subject you’re already passionate about. These traits don’t serve as a defining point, though. There are books that people love with honestly one-dimensional characters, then books that the same people will reject for having that flaw. I know this, because I make frank comparisons in my reading and I see myself doing it.

What makes a problem become a fatal flaw in one work, when it can be overlooked in others? Is it the cumulative quality that actually spurs our decisions, and we just put it down to the first simplified answer we come across? What’s worse, we learn all these rules about writing (that are surely for breaking!) and we appreciate why they are important, yet a book can come along and seemingly disregard all the important things you’ve ever learnt, and still be a good book.

I suppose the quest to understand what makes a story good is one of those endless, unanswerable things. Not just because everyone has their own personal taste, but because sometimes the things we love in one instance are the things we hate at other times. People are uniquely capable of these amazing contradictions. At the end of the day, there probably isn’t an answer at all. Not even to ourselves.

~A

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4 thoughts on “Complicated types of taste

  1. Occasionally, this means I read a really incredible book that is well worth the time and effort, and sometimes this means I am left in a state of wonderment that there should be anything considered remarkable about a book.

    So true!
    I recently read two that everyone is raving about. One I couldn’t even get through. The other just left me feeling like… meh.

    1. There’s no truly universal story, because we’re not all moved by the same elements. It really makes you wonder what people see in the things they appreciate, when they have left you unmoved. 🙂

      ~A

  2. So true. Taste is so difficult to pin down. I do sort of read through books as a bit of research. I like to figure out what made them appealing to me. (The “to me” is always tacked on there.)

    It’s also helpful to remember this when sharing stories too. So if someone doesn’t read it or drops off reading something, then it’s okay. Tastes just differ and it’s not personal.

    1. It’s actually a lot of fun trying to figure out the specific elements that make something work so well to you. Then comparing those elements from one story to the next, and figuring out why something worked in one situation and didn’t work in another!

      ~A

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