Long-time fiction junkie confesses – “I read very little fiction now.”
From the time I learned to read (about age 5, as I remember), I have read fiction. I love good stories, and my top favorite books of all time are fiction.
Gone with the Wind was the first great book I read that I didn’t have to read for a class assignment. I remember reading one summer and crying and being overwhelmed with the drama of Scarlett O’Hara’s story.
- Mysteries, including every since Agatha Christie, including all the short stories and plays),
- Science fiction – Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven,
- Fantasy, starting with Tolkein and then all his imitators, like Terry Brooks.
- General book club fiction, from several book clubs that I belonged to over the years.
But I find myself picking up what I think will be a great fiction book, reading a little and putting it down. I’m bored.
Readers of Fiction are Great People
Research has uncovered something interesting about people who read fiction. According to arts.mic, fiction readers “tend to be more empathetic to others.” Using Twitter and newspapers don’t count. When you envision yourself as the characters in a book, you can on their emotions. Hence, fiction readers, says the article’s author Gabe Bergado, tend to be more empathetic to others in the real world.
I have always been pretty empathetic, and a good listener. Maybe that’s why. I wonder if my personality will change as I read less fiction.
Why I don’t read much fiction anymore:
- There is so much fiction out there, and 90% of it is mediocre. I love the phenomenon of self-publishing and how it has opened up the world to many new authors. Those many new authors are getting published, but I’m not sure that’s all good. Without a traditional vetting process as the publishers perform, many mediocre and less-than-mediocre novels are published. Sorting through the possibilities is overwhelming.
- Non-fiction has been my priority over the past few years, particularly history and biography, that I’m reading as background for the stories I’m writing myself.
- My time is limited. I have no time to sit for hours and read a fiction book. I quickly decide if I’m going to read a book after reading a page or two. Most fiction gets discarded at this point. I do listen to fiction on audio while I’m doing other things (mostly quilting or driving). To make me interested enough to spend my time listening, the book has to be fast-paced. My favorites to listen to are Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum rocks!), Michael Connolly (still the greatest mystery writer currently), or Dennis LeHane. I couldn’t put down his recent trilogy about the Coughlin family.
Reading Extraordinary 5-Star Fiction
Yes, I do still read some fiction. I can’t wait for the final novel in Jane Smiley’s “Hundred Years” trilogy: Golden Age. (UPDATE: I did read this book, but I was disappointed. It was not at all as good as the first one in the series. Proves my point.)
And I always have the next in Louise Penny’s great mystery series about a Canadian detective on my pre-order list.
The less time I have, the more selective I am about the fiction I read. I find new books to read from the NY Times Book Review. Then I go to the library or download on Kindle. And I start reading. It usually only takes me a page or two to see if I want to continue. Mostly I don’t.
Note for Writers: Make the First Pages Fantastic!
The bottom line for this article is: make sure the first pages of your fiction are the best you can make them. Grab me. Then don’t let me go. Make we want to keep turning the pages. Want my opinion about your first 5 pages? Send me a comment and I’ll tell you where to send your pages for my review.
Thanks for your time!
Jean Wilson Murray