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Reading, like fine wine or cheese...

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Vylar Kaftan
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 11:40 am:   

I'd be interested to hear how people's tastes in reading have evolved over a long period of time (decades or so).

I've been re-reading some books/stories that I first read about a decade ago--and been surprised to find out that many of them are not nearly as good as I remembered. I guess my preferences have evolved since then. Or maybe my standards are higher.

A decade ago, I was still a teenager, so that might influence these results. I thought I'd ask people who had more perspective on this than I do.

Have your tastes changed dramatically over your lifetime? Or have they remained fairly steady since adolescence?
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MarcL
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 12:38 pm:   

Who was it said every book has two authors? The one who wrote the book you read when you were a kid, and the one who wrote the same book that you read again when you were an adult?
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Mastadge
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 12:47 pm:   

Of course my tastes have changed dramatically! I'm 21 now; 6 years ago I was still giving Robert Jordan five-star reviews on Amazon; a couple years before that my reading consisted almost solely of Star Trek novels. Now I can't believe I loved some of the stuff I did even two or three years ago -- at this rate, I hope I don't get sick of reading altogether within the next decade!
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Bruce
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 01:23 pm:   

Yep, Edgar Rice Burroughs doesn't have quite the same resonance for me thirty years later. That doesn't mean all my Tarzan and John Carter paperbacks are off to a second-hand store; they look just fine where they are.

The first SF novel I read was 'Conquerers From the Darkness' by Robert Silverberg. It blew me away when I was eleven and I re-read it twenty years later for a lark. Juvenilia to be sure, but still enjoyable. Thanks, Bob!

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Vylar Kaftan
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 01:48 pm:   

Well, I'd expect a dramatic change from ages 15-21. What I was wondering is whether similarly dramatic changes also happen from, say, 30-40, or 50-60.
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Bruce
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 02:15 pm:   

From my 45 year old perspective, my reading proclivities have changed a fair bit. I reread books far less than I used to. When I hit forty, I decided it was high time to read more of the classics i.e. books people claim they've read even if it was just the Coles Notes. I wasn't particularly interested as a younger fellow to slog through Ulysses or Don Quixote.

I tried sampling the Nobel-winners and got through about 75 selections before taking a long break from that project. I was surprised how few of them were writers I'd return to...

Another salient difference is the the ability to score books you'd've spent years rooting through second-hand stores. 'Vanitas' by Jeffrey Ford hit my mailbox yesterday and 'White Time' by Margo Lanagan is winging it's way from Oz as I type this. Abebooks and HSIA are the book collector's pals.

I'd also like to mention one of the collateral benefits of reading: it reduces my stress levels better than damn near anything. A lousy day at the office can be smoothed over by the new Kelly Link collection, say.
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AliceB
Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 06:06 pm:   

I find what I like to read comes in cycles. I devoured comic books as a kid, dropped them in my late teens, picked them up in mid-twenties, dropped them again in my thirties, and now, in my forties, unabashadly head for the graphic novels section of both our library and book store.

I read almost every Earl Stanley Gardner novel in print (Perry Mason, et al.) as a teen, and still get a kick out of a good mystery novel but no longer crave the genre. In my late teens loved reading plays--Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen, Ionesco, Beckett, Queneau, Beaumarchais all those old Greek guys, and many more I've since forgotten. (My schooling was in French, so I had had my fill of Moliere, Racine and Corneille which I didn't want to touch). I'm glad I did then because I wouln't be interested in reading a play now. Catch me in ten years, and we'll see.

Like Bruce, as I started reaching 40, I decided to read more of those classics I had never touched, but my taste tended toward Austen. I've also started reading historical nonfiction and, much to my surprise, loving it.

I avoided SF as a teen, mostly because my older brother insisted I should read it, but began picking it up again in my late twenties,along with a fair contingent of fantasy and stuff that doesn't classify so easily ("weird shit").

So there you go.

Alice
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nealasher
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - 12:35 am:   

As above, Edgar Rice Burroughs led me in along with, inevitably, Lord of the Rings. I read E C Tubb & Moorcock for many years along with many others of the greats. Those I can still re-read: Zelazny, Silverberg, Van Vogt ... um, I'd have to check my collection to list more. Definitely some drop by the wayside, but maybe that's because the impression I received from them initially has prevented me picking them up again. I guess I should try.
http://freespace.virgin.net/n.asher
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MarcL
Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - 04:11 pm:   

Bruce, "Conquerors from Darkness" was one of my very first sf encounters too! My mom read me select chapters, and in particular one scene where a captain chokes to death on a fishbone. I already didn't much like fish, but that scene instilled a lifelong fear of choking on the bones.

When I was in 5th grade I picked up another Silverberg YA novel, PLANET OF DEATH, which I adored. It was nothing but grisly deaths, pits of acid, all that kind of thing. Years later when I told Silverberg how much the book meant to me, he drily said, "Oh that? I wrote that for slow readers."

Heh.

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