June 8, 2009

In which I lose all my Twilight loving friends. . .

There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
-Flannery O'Connor

Have you noticed it too?

Maybe it's just me. Let me give you a little background.

I am an English major. (I guess, technically, I WAS an English major. But I still like to think of it as my major in a more general sense of the word.) I read hundreds of classics during my 4 year stint a BYU-Idaho. I still read books like Anna Karenina and A Tale of Two Cities just for fun. (And because they are totally worth reading. Stepping off the soapbox now. . . )

My last year of college I spent the majority of my time cranking out papers on literature. But not only on the literature itself. On literature as a whole. I wrote more than one paper defining the criteria for what makes literature great. Is it the writing? The plot? The execution? I would get out my paper and quote it to you, but I think that if I did that you would all stop reading right this very minute. So instead I will give you the cliff notes version:
It is a combination of all three.

So, here comes my point. Why, oh why, are there so many books out there loved by SOOOO many people, that don't have all 3 elements working for them? *coughtwilightcough*

Recently I found a cute little book at my favorite bookstore, Desert Industries. It is about the same level as Charlotte's Web. I thought I would pick it up, that it would be nice to have in my collection once my girls get a little bit older. I read it. It was cute. The story was clever. The characters were generally likable. But the writing was awful. The author was in love the the thesaurus, using words like "diminutive" when "small" would have been perfectly adequate. She repeated herself constantly and occasionally talked in circles. And I was so disappointed. The story had so much potential. She could have gone so many places with it. But I had a hard time getting through it.

Actually, a little part of me understands. I love a good, quick, fun little story that has no real relevance to my life, and that just gives my brain a break. The literary equivalent to a romantic comedy.

I just wish it was easier to find good, contemporary, books. I wish there were more Barbara Kingsolvers. More Amy Tan's and more Anne Tylers. More Orson Scott Cards. And more JK Rowlings.

What about you? Have you found books that are worth your time, and enjoyable? Or are you struggling, like me?

*please don't hate me twilight friends. . .


Rochelle said...

Sorry, I don't have any suggestions for you since I am working on going through the list of suggestions I got last week, but I just wanted to say, I'm with you on Twilight.....and was also afraid I might lose some friends for it!

wonder woman said...

I do not hate you. I think the reason I like Twilight is that I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to entertainment. I'll watch any movie that not rated R, and watch just about any TV show. Read almost any book. Well, I can't handle books with older language. When I read a book, I only put it down for necessities. I don't have time to spend weeks reading one book because it takes me longer to understand what the author's trying to say.

Anyway........have you read any Jodi Picoult? I find that her older stuff is more likely to have sex/language, but not overly so. The movie "My sister's keeper" is based off her book. She's got some really great stuff out there.

Kristina P. said...

I only read the first 2 Twilight books. I had the 3rd one sitting at my desk all summer last year, when we literally had hours upon hours of downtime, and I got to the first page. I just didn't want to waste my time anymore.

InkMom said...

My sister and I have both come to the consensus that Twilight would have been a lot better if it had been written by a different author. Good story, not so good writing.

That said . . . my latest discoveries:

Carlos Ruiz Zafon -- Spanish writer, The Shadow of the Wind has a fantastic English translation.

Diane Setterfield -- The Thirteenth Tale

Markus Zusak -- The Book Thief (interesting style -- give it a chance!)

Nicole Krauss -- The History of Love

Barbara Kingsolver -- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Anita Diamant -- The REd Tent (not a new discovery, but an old friend)

Sue Monk Kidd -- The Secret Life of Bees (another old friend . . . but not any of her other stuff)

There's more.


Linds said...

You're right. You are so not my friend anymore! =) I guess I can keep you as family though.

These are a few books I read recently and enjoyed, but apparently I'm not very picky!

"The Memory Keepers Daughter" Kim Edwards
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" Lisa See
"Hannah's Dream" Diane Hammond
"The Dissident" nell Feudenberger
"The Welsh Girl" Peter Ho Davies
and of course the Twilight series
Another series that I found interesting, but some may find it offensive, Phillip Pulman "His Dark Materials." Kind of like reading "The DaVinci Code." Take it all with a grain of salt.

Debbie said...

I haven't really struggled finding any good books cause I have a lot of book friends who are always passing along lists. One similar friend counted our list of 'to reads' few weeks ago and said it was past 700. Plus like Wonder Woman, I'm generally easy to please. While I have likes and dislikes I am still interested in reading most any story.

I have a friend whom I think would have so many great books for you. Are you on shelfari by any chance? You two seem to have similar taste. If you are let me know and I'll tell you how to find her--she reads A LOT of books of a huge variety and does fabulous reviews.

Emily (Good Frau) said...

I'm with you! I loved the part in this post where you pointed out that some authors like to use big words just to use big words, when simple words sometimes fit so much better.

One of my favorite authors is Betty Smith. She's not necessarily "contemporary," since she died in the early 1970s, I believe, but I love her writing. If I wrote books, I would aspire to be somewhat like her. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "Joy in the Morning" were my favorites, but her others are worth reading, too. Her stories are about regular people, but are very thought-provoking and I think you would appreciate her style.

Okay. Done.

janae said...

CONFESSION: I refuse to even start the Twilight books. My hubs met Stephanie Meyer and heard a reading of the first book before it was even published, and was NOT impressed, so I've never even felt remotely tempted.

[sigh] It felt good to get that off my shoulders. :)

Carolyn said...

I was an English major too so I know what you're talking about.

But after college I spent 5 years working in advertising. So I can switch hit so to speak. It depends on if you are defining 'good writing' as something that fits a set of criteria (ie what the professor says is good) or if you are defining it as what people relate to. Twilight appeals to a vast audience. Other more sophisticated works only appeal to a select few who have cultivated their tastes. Both are 'good'.

Too deep?

Melinda said...

I loved Twilight, not because the writing is so fantastic, it just appeals to me, IN a completely obsessive over-the-top way. :) But like Wonder Woman, I am easily entertained and I read just for the heck of it, I don't generally critique, unless its REALLY horrible. The other part of it thats hard, is everyone has their own tastes so who's the top dog that gets to choose for everyone whats "good"? :)

pan x 8 said...

I joined my local book club just so I can get more ideas of what to read and we even read Tale of Two Cities this year... not very many suggestions...

I've also put down a lot of books I was not willing to continue reading because they did not catch my fancy!

heather said...

I'm not an English Major -but I am a reader and I think of myself as a writer. I was not a fan of Twilight.

I just picked up Eragon, and I'm actually liking it. I'm not normally a fantasy reader.

ALSO I just finished The Strangeness of Beauty -which I really liked, and Snow Flower and Secret Fan.

Breeze said...

I enjoyed the Twilight series, but haven't OBSESSED over it like some I know.

I often have a hard time finding a good book to read also. But then again, if I start a book, I won't waste my time on it, if it doesn't make a connection with me personally.

I read the Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and enjoyed it. I like the books that aren't too predictable, and seem to be page turners.

Good luck trying to find something good to read. Have you hopped onto Good Reads or Shelfari yet?? I'm on both, and I run into or discover books that catch my interest that way... who knows??

SO said...

I have not had a lot of time to read as much as I would like. I don't hate you. I like the Twilight series (well the first book) for the fluff of it all.

I enjoy Jodi Picoult as an author. Although her last couple of books have been kind of predictable. My two most favorite of hers have been My Sister's Keeper and 19 Minutes.

If you like fantasy there is Robert Jordan's series The Wheel of Time...well the first half of the series...

I'm probably not the best judge of what constitutes great book or not.

I do love Richard Bach, Illusions. That one really makes you think.

Someone earlier mentioned Snowflower and the Secret Fan. That was had some very interesting insight into the Asian culture.

And I honestly really liked The Host. But hopefully you won't hold that against me.

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