Katherine’s Arbitrary Rules of Reading

+1 point:

  • Lists of what a character packed for a journey (e.g., His Dark Materials, Homecoming)
  • Breaking a narrative rule (killing the narrator, never letting the reader know what happened to a character, etc. — Tomorrow When the War Began is good at that). I applaud daring.
  • Australia (just, in general)
  • Blitz-era Britain settings (especially The Secret Keeper)
  • Post-apocalyptic homesteading (Alas, Babylon being the greatest example)
  • A sense of the hauntedness of a place. It’s hard to explain. The Secret Garden has it, and the seriously flawed The China Garden, this indefinable sense that generations have passed through a place.
  • Pausing in the action of the novel for nursing and naps, where babies are involved (Sisterland is just terrific at this; almost all television is awful at keeping track of babies)

-1 point:

  • Descriptions of eye color (exception: L.M. Montgomery)
  • Descriptions of outfit worn by heroine
  • Ending chapters with ellipses for suspense (e.g., Dan Brown)
  • Present-tense narration
  • Lack of quotation marks and other useful punctuation (Cormac McCarthy but also this The Dog Stars I’m currently losing faith in.)
  • Use of the word “erotic” in the blurb. Eww.

In addition, I abandon books without guilt (if no one has assigned them); read multiple books at once; re-read shamelessly, and, at least when I’m feeling crummy, return to my childhood reading posture: fetal position, glasses off.

What are your inexplicable reading hangups and soft spots?

2 thoughts on “Katherine’s Arbitrary Rules of Reading

  1. I keep starting to comment on this and then Leo wakes up from a nap and I accidentally close out my browser and repeat the process again and again.

    I get what you are saying about the hauntedness of a place. In particular, I reeeally hate when I read fantasy literature and the imaginary universe/country just seems flimsy. I need to feel like there’s a real history within and beyond the geographical confines of where the story takes place.

    I haven’t really thought too hard about my arbitrary rules but a couple that come to mind:

    -Makes me laugh out loud. Not a lot of books do.
    -Descriptions of food that make me want to make said food. (Usually turn of the century British children’s literature does this for me. And also Harry Potter.)
    -Contains words that send me to the dictionary.

    -Same with confusion over who is speaking.
    -descriptions of sunsets
    -descriptions of teenage angst (I really hated being a teenager so that might have something to do with it.)


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