2016 Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Breaking Challenges and Leaving Books

I don’t typically abandon books, unless the writing is absolutely horrible. I try to stick with most of what I start. The last book I remember abandoing was James Joyce’s ULYSSES, because I am weak and Joyce broke me after 100 pages.

9780307700292_custom-38f97d598dd5a25fde978f81f0dee68ce3187488-s400-c85I started reading Orhan Pamuk’s STRANGENESS IN MY MIND a few weeks ago and I couldn’t get through the first 100 pages. I firmly believe that there is a time and a place for every book to be read. I am not in the right place for Pamuk nor the right time. His writing is elegant and his imagery is vivd. But the story of a boy growing up in Istanbul wasn’t what I needed at the moment. So I put the book down. Life is too short to force myself to read books that I’m not in the mood for. Maybe Pamuk and I can become reacquainted later in the year.

I wasn’t ready for Pamuk, but it apparently was the right time and place for me to read ZOO, my first James Patterson novel. It was a rather spontaneous selection: I wanted an audiobook to listen to on an upcoming road trip and ZOO was right in front of me at the library.

James Patterson, the epitome of the white male author.

51TEMzloFmL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_On one level, ZOO was exactly what I needed—A fast paced thriller about animals attacking humans. But it also helped me really see the difference between this book and the books I have been reading.

The main character in ZOO, Jackson Oz, is a man’s man. He is the only character with first person narration. Readers also get into the heads of some animals. In fact, we see more from the animals’ perspectives than from the main woman in the story, Chloe. And Chloe, while stronger than most women in fiction, always needs to be saved by Oz. She can’t save herself.

In the other novels I’ve read this year, women are complex. They push back against societal roles, they question things—they are powerful. The voices and experiences are so incredibly diverse. There is something enhanced in them that is missing in Patterson’s novel. ZOO helped me see clearly what I had been reading, when I stuck to my reading habitis.

In light of these revelations, I’ve loosened the reins a little bit with my reading challenge. I’ve read a few books by white men about the publishing industry, which have been informative. I’ve read books by women that jumped out at me from the library shelves that I never planned on reading. I’ve read some really good, moving books because of that.

I’m restructing things. Instead of planning out month by month what books I’m going to read, I’ve just tossed all of the titles into a mass list. I don’t want to feel pressured into reading a book I’m not in the mood for. I’ll add books that weren’t on my original list and find the good and bad.

Perhaps this is how reading is supposed to be—a mildly spontaneous and passionate relationship between reader and book. We don’t choose each other, but find the other through chance. I can’t read WHITE TEETH, when I’m really in the mood for a psychological thriller. I’m letting Fate enter into my challenge. I’m excited to see what happens.


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