What Do You Read, and Why?


“I read because … one of these days I’m going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.” ~ Richard Peck.

It would be easy saying reading is important, and not give any reason as to why. Or even easier to say we read a particular writing style because we like it. But why do we like it?

I really enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers. Is it the pace? The adrenaline rush? The writing? The gut-twisting danger? Yes, all those things and more.

Sure, I enjoy reading anything well-written, but again, that’s too general. While I read a wide variety of books, mysteries/thrillers always rank among my favorites. It’s hard to beat sitting down with a book that has a great plot, terrific characters on both sides of the aisle, good writing, and great forward momentum/pace. That world fascinates me, and I’m not easily fascinated.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a great many literary novels: “The Great Gatsby,” “1984,” Leo Tolstoy’s books, but lately I haven’t been lucky in the literary-novel department.

The Goldfinch (recent Pulitzer Prize winner) grabbed me by the neck, and after a fantastic beginning, I absolutely had to read it. Halfway through the book, and I’m seriously slowing down.

The never-ending rants and ramblings have overstayed their welcome to such a point, I’m not sure I care what happens to the character anymore. I will finish the book, but that’s not because I absolutely have to, but more because hey, I’ve gotten this far.

The second such literary novel, Infinite Jest, forget it. I don’t think I could finish that one. Hundred pages in, and there is no sign of where we’re going. I really enjoy a wonderful, creative, deep, heart-wrenching, all-around gorgeous piece of writing when in combination with some sort of momentum.

And so many pages in, forward momentum is key, isn’t it? For this reason I prefer literary works as short fiction (the author is forced to get somewhere a bit faster).

So here I am, perhaps easily bored, returning to my thriller/mystery reading. 

What do you read? And why?


Image courtesy: oxbridgeinterviews.co.uk


36 responses to “What Do You Read, and Why?

  1. You are such a good writer! I so enjoyed reading, it was a passion of mine. Hardly do I have time now that I am writing so often. What is your secret?

  2. I like fantasy stories, and lean towards YA. I think it’s because I enjoy the world building, being able to see why an author has created a world as they have, and what points they may be making within the world.

    • Takes great imagination to create such a world. And imagination is a wonderful way to escape. Thank you for reading and the comment.

      • I find I enjoy them beyond escapism (though a good “let me ignore the world and just read fluff” book is great from time to time as well). It can also be a great way to highlight and explore things that might be going on in the real world, but can’t be approached in the same way in realistic fiction.

      • Absolutely. Fantasy gives a writer freedom to create beyond the constrains of the real world. One such book that comes to mind is Hugh Howey’s Wool. Very much enjoyed it.

      • I haven’t heard of that one, will have to add it to my list :)

    • It’s a series of novellas, which can be downloaded all together as one book. I think the interesting part is that the writer is not published by a major house, yet his books are highly successful. When asked by an interviewer why he priced his ebook so low, his reply: “because I’m a big nobody”. Well, not anymore. I know, I can get carried away, sorry. Thanks for listening. :)

  3. I too like short fiction. I wrote my memoir and it was torture at 148 pages but it was an accomplishment I wanted to complete. I think that’s why I like poems and short stories. I am new to the short story genre, but I like it so far. Maybe one day they will be published. You write great short stories. I read some on your blog. I will read your book when it comes out! (I think you said you were writing a book?)

    • I hope your shorts will be published soon. I’m with you on short stories. When done well, so many emotions can be evoked, and such good writing can be accomplished in a short period of time.
      Thank you for reading my shorts, appreciate the kind words. Yes, the novel is done, and will hopefully be published. Thanks again.

  4. Good questions, Silvia! I read historical fiction more than anything. I like to learn true details the authors research, but enjoy how they imagine conversations and relationships were–the combination of truth and fiction. I do like a good mystery, too, and enjoy trying to guess the perpetrators. Happy Thursday!

  5. What I read depends on my mood. I like memoires as I write personal essays. Recently I read BOYS IN THE BOAT, about the University of Washington rowing team competing in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. However, the majority of the story was based on one man’s horrific life. The book was masterfully written, colorful, historic, and personal.

    I also read BEND, NOT BREAK by Ping Fu. She writes about her life growing up in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I thought the book was well written, but I hear some people don’t believe the story as she wrote it.

    I’m also addicted to historic romances, romances, and “who-done-it’s”. Now I need to buy a new bookcase or figure out where else to start stacking my books! Don’t you dare say, “Give them away!” ;-)

    • Gwynn, your books are your babies. I would never dare. :) I heard a review on NPR on Bend, Not Break. That poor woman’s experience sounded awful enough to seem unreal. If she exaggerated it, that’s too bad, if not, I feel for her. Thank you so much.

  6. I raced through The Goldfinch earlier this year after a lot of a Twitter friends raved about it, I thought it was a great read. However, I agree it had serious weaknesses and didn’t think it was of sufficient literary merit to win the Pulitzer.

  7. I read such a variety of genres, it’s hard to pinpoint one or two. I read because it’s been ingrained in me by my mother since I was very young, and I can’t live without reading. I must have a book to read at all times!!

  8. You know, whenever there is big hype about a book I’m usually disappointed. On the other hand, when a good friend makes a sincere recommendation I’m always happy with the outcome. I have one pal who has NEVER steered me wrong. I’m at the age now where life is too short to get stuck in a “bad” book. I just put it down and move on to my next TBR — no guilt. There are just too many books out there in the world that I can’t even imagine reading them all.
    Right now I’m reading Elizabeth Hawes’ FASHION IS SPINACH — published in the late 1930’s but so spot on, and laugh out loud funny. I’m ashamed I had never even heard of this book before this week.

    • I’m with you on the hype and disappointment, Rosie. So good to have a group of friends who always steer you right. Will look into your suggestions here. Thank you.

  9. Your post has really stirred up interest! I’m with you in terms of liking mysteries/thrillers – I think because of the fast pace and the fact they take me out of daily life. And of course it is what I write. I am trying hard to make sure that I also read other genres. The Goldfinch is on my Kindle but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I may not get to it, given your review. I just finished reading Enemy Women, which Rosie Amber may have reviewed or one other of the blogs I follow. It was an eye opener in terms of revealing something I never considered about the Civil War – that women could be considered collaborators and be sent to horrific jails without due process. I also recently read Maeve Binchy and Diana Gabaldon books. I am going to go back and read some Steinbeck, since a friend of mine has been reading some of his shorter works, like the Red Pony, and recommended I revisit him. So much to read, so little time!

    • And your mystery novel is excellent, Noelle. I understand the ending of The Goldfinch is great, and the beginning is excellent, but the problem is with the 600+ pages in between. Love Steinbeck, by the way, and thanks for the Civil War reading suggestion here.

  10. I agree, forward momentum is key. I want to see where the story is going. I’m more of a fantasy/sci-fi fan, although lately I’ve been reading quite a few romances. I guess I just need a good HEA.

  11. Hi Silvia … great post and the comments also which have piqued my interest! I loved The GoldFinch though got stuck on about pg 80 or so but when I picked it up again I was enthralled. I’m never happier than with a good book – though little time. I’ve just finished Hermann Hesse’s: The Glass Bead Game. Third re-reading of it and it always fascinates me and is as new every time (over a period of 12 years or so). I love any kind of book. Wally Lamb’s We are Water was a recent read and terrific. Am about to read Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, and also have Hillman’s The Soul’s Code on hand. I truly love reading, both fiction and non-fiction. And re: short stories – nothing beats Roald Dahl’s adult reading …
    Have a wonderful weekend! :) :)

  12. A friend in my local writer’s group is trying to get through The Goldfinch now too. Not sure I’m going to bother. I get really irritated when the first chapters are good, and then the author disappoints me with a sagging middle. I’ve been known to throw a book across the room. Who, me? Nah….

  13. I love your question about why we read what we do. I like a variety of novels from literary to thriller, but I also love reading classics and non-fiction. I recently finished The Fault in Our Stars and enjoyed it. Which got me to thinking, one reason I chose books is the social aspect. It’s fun to talk with others who have read a certain book and either loved it or hated it.

    If you liked Tolstoy, have you read any Dostoevsky? He’s my favorite. Crime and Punishment is good, but I also like some of his lesser known stories like The Double and The Gambler. I think it is his characters that charm me so much. :)

    • Chuck, thank you for this. Yes, the social aspect gets me hooked into a book when well done, and especially when showing cultures I know little to nothing about, like Hoseini’s The Kite Runner. But any society, really.
      Loved Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Some compare it with classical Greek tragedies, but I think it stands on its own merit very well.

  14. Here’s what I’m reading these days: Cost (Roxana Robinson), Maya’s Notebook (Isabel Allende), This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett), The Son (Jo Nesbo). Plus I just took out a whole bunch of crime novels from the library this morning.
    The last great literary novel I really liked was Annabel (Kathleen Winter).
    I feel the same way as you do, Silvia, about The Goldfinch – losing interest. Maybe because it’s too long. However, the final pages are the best! Don’t miss them. :)

  15. “Needing forward momentum” is why I can’t manage to get through Jane Austen, no matter how hard I try. I love science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, memoir (especially stories about women farming, which I have always wanted to do) — and just about anything else that catches my eye. Favorite books are like old friends, so I tend to re-read them in fits and starts. Right now I’m on a Robert A. Heinlein binge, having just discovered a new compilation of his fantasies. I generally have three or four books going at once, and I pick them up depending on my mood and how much reading time I have. – Fawn

  16. What a great question. I don’t know if I can answer it but I can tell you I do read a ton. And I tend to read a lot of Historical Fiction. I like mysteries too but I don’t like gory type of books. I like to mix up my reading. I will read classics and what I call ‘heavy’ or more ‘thinking’ books and then throw in ‘quick’ reads or what I call fun and ‘easy’ reads such as, “You Had Me At Hello”, by Mhairi McFarlane or “A Week in Winter”, by Maeve Binchy.

    You might try “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger, I loved the book.
    Another good one “The Dinner” by Herman Koch.

    I am currently reading “Anna Karenina”, Leo Tolstoy.

    Oh, and I couldn’t get through “Infinite Jest” either.

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