It’s no secret I adore reading. I’ve been a book reviewer for a solid 15 years, for newspapers and, more recently, a book-review publication that has done print and e-versions. For a long time, I kept up a membership in the National Book Critics Circle. A few years ago, I just stopped sending in yearly membership checks; I intended to get around to it but never did. Oh well. But in all honesty, I don’t see myself as a critic. I’m just a reviewer.
Here’s the thing: I don’t read a ton of literary fiction. For those of you who aren’t really aware of the distinction among different genres, there’s “literary fiction” and there’s “popular fiction,” among other things. To put it simply, the literary version of fiction is highbrow. It’s what you’d read and dissect in an English 353 college class. It has Meaning. Popular fiction is fun and far more accessible.
Now, literary fiction can be fun, and pop fiction can have plenty of discuss-able elements. But I’m just keeping it simple here. And honestly, I often do not get the literary stuff. I’ll say it straight-up. I consider myself an intelligent person, one who enjoys dissecting and discussing. But when a book I’m reading requires heavy concentration and a professor to help me figure out what it’s supposed to be About, then I’m inclined to chuck it.
So while I do skim through the New York Times Book Review, I don’t read a lot of the books featured in its lofty pages. I don’t typically read many Nobel winners, either. Pulitzers, sometimes. What I do end up reading are the Newbery and Caldecott winners, though. I find those wonderful library awards to be right up my alley. The books honored are targeted at young readers, and they can be absolutely charming, insightful, and even Meaningful. But they’re still absolutely accessible. So I sit up and pay attention when those are announced, as they were today.
Nah, I’m not a snobby reader. I guess I’m just a middle-of-the-road reviewer. Yes, I have standards: if you’ve read my other book posts, you’ll know I do not like certain churn-’em-out writers, and I am still mostly wary of self-pubs. I like to feast my eyes and mind on books that give me something to consider, to ponder, to chew on. I like to be transported. I love to sink my mental teeth into some delicious metaphors and beautifully arranged words that describe a feeling or an experience to a T. I can be pretty picky. But I am not a Literature reader or critic.
I think, though, that’s a good thing, because most other readers aren’t, either. (Literature fans will likely bemoan the sorry state of the reading populace, but bah humbug on them.) What I can do as a mostly middle-of-the-road reader and reviewer who has standards is present some wonderful reading options (and with content ratings on my Rated Reads site, as an added bonus) that will satisfy most other middle-of-the-road readers with similar standards. As with anything, it’s always handy to find like-minded people when you’re looking for a recommendation, whether it’s for books, movies, TV or restaurants. I’m happy to offer up my mind to those who like it. Here’s to us non-critics.
I'm a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.