I don’t review many books any more. There are several reasons for this – not least the fact that I no longer feel comfortable leaving an honest review. I’m me online; I have the same avatar for pretty much every account and I’m not hard to find. And I’ve seen perfectly valid, constructive, yet honest reviews where the author’s army of fans have hunted down the poor reviewer and trashed them publicly – one-starring any/all of their books and generally trolling anyone who doesn’t think their favourite author is worthy of a Booker…
But another reason I’m becoming more reluctant to review is that so many books I read these days are just … forgettable. Meh. I enjoy reading them, don’t get me wrong. I refuse to finish books I don’t enjoy, as life’s just too short for bad books. But next week I won’t remember the title or the plot, and if I see the cover again I’ll have only a vague recollection of ever having read it at all.
Why is that? There’s nothing inherently wrong with these books. They may or may not have their faults; I might have given them any number of stars on Amazon. But they’re just a passing snack on my literary menu – nothing more – and I’m hungry again immediately.
This isn’t meant to be a debate about literary fiction being more satisfying, or somehow worthy. I’ve read classics, but I mostly read genre fiction. But I long for something deep and satisfying, something meaty that will make me think, make me uncomfortable, fill me up and that I’ll still remember next week, month, year. Something that I won’t forget reading for a long time. And you get that in genre fiction – you really do. Just not that often.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t written much of any length recently, too. I’ve been dabbling in other projects – script-writing, short stories etc – but nothing longer. I need something to grab me and inspire me. If it makes me think and question my own values, it will make my readers do the same and that’s what I want to do – not just trot out a forgettable tale. Which probably all sounds very pretentious and superior, but it isn’t. Not really. I’d like my readers to love my books, but any emotion is better than none. Apathy is the biggest killer of all for readers and writers.
So what books really stick in your mind? Ones you can go back to – even though you may remember them. Books where the characters are real. Stories that made you laugh or cry – or even squirm. But stories you’ll never forget. Wow books. I remember reading an extract from Brave New World aged ten – the babies on the floor scene – and even at that young age, it just blew me away and I can still remember it to this day. I’ve read the entire novel several times since and the story stays with me. More modern stuff (and nothing with the twist-you-won’t-see-coming, please!) such as Still Alice, Children of Time, Humber Boy B, The Son in Law, or the incredibly dark and disturbing Schadenfreude (seriously – this is the darkest book I have ever read, but powerful and gripping). All very different genres and all very memorable in their own way. These are the books I want to find and devour … and write too!