Reading

No Sir, I Didn’t Like it.

iB9y3uuI should be writing a review of The Golden Compass, but I’m not going to. Because I’m a rebel. Instead, I’m going to write about why I’m not writing a review of the The Golden Compass.

I’m not writing a review on that book because I didn’t enjoy it much, but it’s not a simple as that. And from time to time (almost every time), that sort of thing makes me feel like I’m awful and that there is something wrong with me. I run into this problem more than I’d care to admit, because once I start most books, unless I find them to be incredibly awful, or off putting, I will hate read it. Because I finish what I start, damnit.

For the purposes of exploring that idea,  Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass isn’t the best example.  Matthew Mather’s Cyberstorm would be ideal; as of right now the book has four thousand three hundred seventy two reviews on Amazon. Fifty percent of them are five star, thirty six percent are four star, nine percent are three star, three percent are two star, and a single percent is one star. I firmly believe this book belongs in the one star category.

I picked up this book initially because another author I liked recommended it on his blog. After a couple chapters in, I wanted to put the book down. But I didn’t, telling myself that it would probably pick up. Maybe in a chapter or two more, it would really start to shine. It never got better, so I hate read it, because I finish what I start, damnit.

So I finished the book and found myself wondering, “How the hell did two thousands one hundred eighty six people like this book enough to give it five stars?” The characterization was awful, mind-bogglingly impossible things happened, the writing was a clunky stream of consciousness, and in general, the book was pretty poorly written. Clearly there must be something wrong with me if eighty six percent of the people who read this book thought it was above average.

Actually, no there isn’t. Why could that be? Well, there are a few reasons:

    1. Consumer vs. Craftsman:
      Some people consume; some people create. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to consume and enjoy material when I don’t work with that medium. When you think about it, this makes sense. As a craftsman, you invest yourself in something and hone your skill and understanding. This makes spotting errors or mistakes easier and forces you to develop a more defined personal style.
    2. Rate of Consumption:
      Ok, so I just said that that consumers have an easier time appreciating that which they consume but do not craft. While this is remains mostly true, if you consume large amounts of a specific media, you begin to understand that media through sheer exposure. For example, I spent six months working for Blockbuster and I did not have cable. I watched a significant amount of movies. As a result, I dislike watching most movies now. I find most of them to be formulaic and predictable. The same can be said of books, and I read rather frequently.
    3. Positive Fading:
      Positive Fading is the psychological phenomenon where negative emotions are more quickly forgotten than positive ones (check it out). It’s important to note that this phenomenon isn’t as readily observed in those suffering from depression, and while I’m not full-on depressed, depression is something I’m no stranger to.
    4. Different Tastes:
      I read books to escape, to imagine, to live another life, and as a result I cannot stand overly descriptive writers. Nothing kills my immersion quicker than having every detail of a world laid before me.

These are just a few possible reasons. There are many more, such as emotion, shared experience, and personal preference to name just a few. The important thing though, is that it’s ok to not like something someone else does as long as you’re not a jerk about it. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it just means you have different opinions.

Have you ever read something that everyone else loved, but you only thought was eh? Leave a comment and let me know about it.

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