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Does anyone else find it quite hard to find a 'good' book? Or can you read anything?

(51 Posts)
YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 07:49:07

I'm not trying to imply that most books aren't good, not at all - I can see they are well written and so on.

I've only started reading properly again in the last few months after a very long break (maybe 20 years, seriously - I was a teenager) and really enjoying certain books, which I then finish and feel totally bereft.

Trying to find something else to look forward to at bedtime is quite difficult.

I have loads of books I've collected over the years (family getting rid of them, (inherited hundreds last year) or occasionally charity shop buys) and I'm gradually going through them but more often than not I try a few pages and just don't feel comfortable in them.

Like, perhaps the style seems a bit artificial, a bit pretentious or unnatural (Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things) or I can't like the protagonist (Annie Proulx - Shipping News) or it all just seems too unrealistic (Age of Miracles) and sensationalist...I don't like to be messed with or shocked, it has to make plausible sense!

I couldn't even get into Proust at all as it's so poetic, so complicated and full of analogy. It's hard work, isn't it?! And I wanted to get into that as my old English teacher sent it to me sad. I got to page two.

Maybe it's my brain, I don't process very quickly, but there are books I really blooming love and get through very fast indeed.

Recent ones - Captain Corelli, (absolutely beautiful), The Talented Mr Ripley (very very clever and interesting) and High Fidelity, which was a quick read and a bit facile but still readable.

Tried to read Cold Earth by Sarah Moss and had to skip large chunks but it wasn't as hard as a lot of books seem.

My sister read about two novels a day when we were young, she can read anything. I can't seem to.

Sorry for the essay, I just sort of wanted to check that it's common to find this. And also ask if anyone has any suggestions based on the above!


Thanks if you got this far.

SmileItsSunny Sat 09-May-15 07:57:22

join a reading group! Personally I like easier reads, but the group forces me to read books I wouldn't otherwise choose.
My favourite reading group selection was Cutting for Stone, by Abraham? Verghese.

Hillfog Sat 09-May-15 08:02:21

I used to read anything and everything, would take 6 books on holiday for a week and read them all. That was pre-kids though and now I have so little free time that I'm much more selective and choosy and only want to read it if I'll LOVE it. Trouble is I don't like crime books or anything like misery memoirs so I just end up with cheerful chick lit and I'm feeling a bit déjà-vu with those. Sorry, not helped at all, just added a moan!

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 08:03:56

Oh, that's fine, I was hoping other people would moan!

It isn't so much not wanting to read them - I just cannot do it. it seems to take such a huge amount of concentration that it's almost impossible.

I think I have a weak brain grin

NightsOfGethsemane Sat 09-May-15 08:04:25

I used to read anything and everything. I wasn't discerning at all. And I would have to finish it even if it was crap.

Now....I have decided life is too short to waste on bad novels. My judgements are harsh and merciless though so I will often be tempted to ditch a book if I'm not engrossed after a chapter or so.

To be fair to the novel and author in question, I usually try to give it at least until cheaper 3 to 'grab' me but if it doesn't by's gone.

I am a re-reader though. I have my old favourites that I've read a dozen times and adore every line of those. It's hard for new upstart novels to compete with that kind of love affair!

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 08:05:13

I have never gone near a misery memoir tbh, the thought terrifies me.

Things like the Lovely Bones and that miracles one make me feel sort of sicky.

I read a few chick lit books when I was younger and you're right, they are all very similar...and about very young women, which I'm not any more!

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 08:06:55

Nights - I wish I could do that! I tried HG Wells the other week which I adored when I was about 15, and I can't read it now. The language has dated very badly, I can't understand how I read it the first time tbh.

Lovely style but still sad I do keep ones I've read though and stroke them from time to time on the shelf.

TooSpotty Sat 09-May-15 08:12:45

I used to be a constant, compulsive reader. And now I struggle hugely to find books that appeal and that I can concentrate on. I think a combination of having had children, a few bouts of depression that ruined my concentration a bit and got me out of the habit, and the bloody Internet have done it. I often realise I've spent two hours reading my phone instead of a book, so still using the same basic skill but in a different way.

I miss books and proper reading badly so I hope this isn't a permanent thing.

Amrapaali Sat 09-May-15 08:25:53

Have you tried non-fiction? I am reading Longitude by Dava Sobel and I swear it's so much more absorbing than any thriller I have read.... And I learn new things as well smile

catkind Sat 09-May-15 08:26:40

Yy. I used to read all sorts of rubbish, but rarely find a new book I like now. I have certain favourites I reread. Also find I read more non fiction, I was absolutely gripped by the god delusion recently, which I never thought I'd be able to stomach.
I find I'm the same with films, much higher boredom threshold than I used to have, can't be arsed with action sequences at all now.
I guess time is more precious, plus I've had more time to discover my tastes and learn to recognise the clichéd stuff.

ADachshundNamedColin Sat 09-May-15 08:34:29

I find this too. I still usually have a book on the go but struggle to get in to them sometimes.

For me, and I'll be honest here, I think the advent of the Internet and dipping in and out of things online (ie MN blush) and having my iPad have had a bad effect on my ability to concentrate and persevere with things.

I am aware of this and am trying harder, but I'm sure that is part of it.

GnocchiGnocchiWhosThere Sat 09-May-15 08:34:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

The same as Toospotty but without the depression. My attention span is trashed and I pick up my phone and MN instead. I do learn a lot that way but it's not the same.

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 08:52:11

I'm not so sure it's about the internet or attention spans. It is such a different thing.

Sure I can sit and stare at MN for hours sometimes, as it's so low-effort and I'm pretty sleep deprived. But I don't expect the same out of it as I do a book.

I want the book to take me on a journey I suppose. MN doesn't do that. A book has to stay with you and change your whole way of thinking, it provides reference points, characters that could be real, possibilities - I think my issue is that I have to believe the book.

A lot of modern authors I take one look at the first few pages and think 'I can see what you're trying to do here, and it's so transparent, it doesn't work'.

It's like my friend used to say, who was a successful children's author, 'all my friends think it's easy and they could write one too. It's not, it's bloody hard work'. And that was picture books, fairly commercial sort of stuff, you know, it looks easy enough but for a book to be great, you really do need to have a gift.

I think I'm going to look for more stuff by Louis De Bernieres. Has anyone else tried his other books? Are they as fantastic?

FastForward2 Sat 09-May-15 09:51:24

I found a link on internet when googled 'what shall i read next' where you put in the names of favourite books and it gave suggestions.
is there an online equivalebt of a book club?

Mintyy Sat 09-May-15 09:58:26

Capital by John Lanchester!

I am rather fussy about my fiction too, but this one above is entertaining me at the moment. I know exactly what you mean when you get an immediate sense of the author's intentions. Sometimes I'll play along with it, others I'll give up.

I used to have to read books for a living, a lot of them from the infamous Agency slush piles, and that put me off for a long while grin.

I mainly read non-fiction now, with the odd exception.

Favourite recent non-fiction reads include Keith Richards' autobiography Life, and Agent ZigZag by Ben Macintyre.

FastForward2 Sat 09-May-15 10:13:46

Just found mumsnet bookclub will give it a whirl to see if it increases motivation! I find cant read as much as when younger due to internet, plus head full of the worries and pressures of adult life, and probably dying brain cells, but am in a book club which meets every 2 months which is lovely and gives me motivation to read at least one book every 2 months.
I think loads more books are published now than before and it is really difficult to find the good ones, liked Rosie Thomas The kashnir shawl recently.
'The bhudda in the attic' is a beautiful and easy book to read, about women in Japan and their life experiences. Written in very unusual way. Very thought provoking.

suzannecanthecan Sat 09-May-15 10:22:58

Yes I am very fussy, especially with fiction I find it easier to get into non fiction because I am happiest when reading something which informs as well as entertains me .
Then again it's far easier to find good reading material these days, I am always on the lookout for good books and if I hear anything mentioned (on the radio, a podcast, or Internet thread)‎ which grabs me I will look it up and download the kindle sample

although I am harder to please I actually read much more than I used to

magimedi Sat 09-May-15 10:28:07

Capital is hugely entertaining. I loved it.

When my DC were small I found reading much harder & read far less. Now they are adult & DH & I are retired I read about 2 - 3 books a week.

I often have a couple of books on the go at once. One that I will read in bed at night that it 'easy' & I can just read for 15 mins or so before sleep. The other tends to be something that demands more attention & a longer period of reading. I've found that some books you have to read in good long solid chunks in order to appreciate them & that they can't just be read in idle moments. Wolf Hall & The Goldfinch are two that spring to mind (& that I enjoyed enormously).

Try using your library - you can get loads of books out of all different types & dip into them to suit. And you can order most books for about 60/80p & often do so on line. A great resource & woefully underused.

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 11:09:25

Thank you so much for all the suggestions and compared feelings. I'm glad I'm not alone. My whole family reads like mad and I was always the odd one out, but now I am trying to allow that part of me to read in my own way without being afraid of being laughed at for being too slow etc.

I will definitely take a look at John Lanchester - thanks! Also will try the 'what shall I read next' thing. The Japanese book sounds interesting as well.

I think I need a book to be the equivalent of a good old pair of jeans really - not some fancy schmancy frock that needs holding up with tape. Something you can just wear, or read, without standing or thinking in a certain unnatural position. Some poetry is a lot easier to read as well for this reason.

hackmum Sat 09-May-15 11:34:50

Some writers I love are Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Coe, Alison Lurie, Carol Shields, Sebastian Faulks and Sarah Waters. They're all what you'd call literary fiction but also highly readable with engaging, believable characters and interesting plots.

I also love John Lanchester, but all his books are so different! Definitely worth giving Capital a try.

DuchessofMalfi Sat 09-May-15 11:38:38

Fast forward - have you had a look at Goodreads? They have online bookclubs, book recommendations and much more smile I like using it to record what I'm reading. You can have friends on there like Facebook etc and compare books.

YorkieButtonsizeMen Sat 09-May-15 12:10:51

I've struggled with Kate Atkinson for some reason in the past, but I've found a copy of Surfacing by Margaret Atwood and will give that a try I think.

I also love Margaret Forster, talking of Margarets smile Really got very lost in Mrs Pendlebury though it was a fairly depressing ending.

NightsOfGethsemane Sat 09-May-15 12:24:58

Surfacing is very early Margaret Atwood and it shows I think. She's still developing as a writer. Alias Grace and The Blind Assasin on the other hand are just brilliant. I adore most of her work but I struggled with Surfacing.

ZeroFunDame Sat 09-May-15 12:46:11

I think I need a book to be the equivalent of a good old pair of jeans really - not some fancy schmancy frock that needs holding up with tape. Something you can just wear, or read, without standing or thinking in a certain unnatural position. Some poetry is a lot easier to read as well for this reason.

I absolutely love this paragraph - thank you for writing

And what you say about being able to see through what the writer is doing is so true. There is almost nothing better than reading the first paragraph and realising you can relax - they know what they're doing.

In fiction, off the top of my head, I've had this feeling with, for example:

Patrick White Voss or The Tree of Man

Helen DeWitt The Last Samurai

Alan Garner Boneland

Meg Rosoff What I Was

Caroline Blackwood Great Granny Webster

Almost all of Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Dorothy L. Sayers ...

What occurs to me is that, rather than, or in addition to, non-fiction you might find plays more satisfying? Having the Internet in the palm of one's hand all day can blunt the part of the brain that's hungry for new stuff - a play is far less predictable than the average novel and more immediately approachable than a hefty, "serious" novel. If you haven't already I'd suggest trying something like David Grieg's Dunsinane or Jennifer Haley's The Nether or whatever's on (and well reviewed) that you might not get to see on stage.

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