I’m Having an Existential (Reading) Crisis: Shifting Reading Tastes

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Feelings are shifting, habits are changing, everything is basically spiraling out of control.

Okay, not really. Actually, this is a really exciting and interesting time in my reading life. For the last 4-5 years, 99% of the books I picked up to read for fun have been young adult, a.k.a. YA.  This has worked really well for me in the past–I have found books and characters I will cherish forever, that meant a lot to me at the time that I read them and really helped me through some tough stuff. Mid-2015 was when things started to change. A lot of things changed in 2015. I graduated high school, I traveled a lot, I moved into/started college (which is definitely the biggest thing on this list). I started getting exposed to different people and situations and ideas that I had never experienced before because my life as a high schooler was 1) pretty sheltered and 2) pretty not-fun. That’s not to say I haven’t had challenges since I got to college–I’ve had my fair share, I still am, and I still will. Most things are just really different now, which means I’m different, which makes sense that my reading tastes have changed drastically because reading is such a large part of my life and who I am.

This is going to sound horrible and cliché, but it’s true: in high school, I was really, really lonely and didn’t really have friends until senior year. It was tough going to a small school where everyone already knew each other once I arrived. I had a few really lonely years and the way that I dealt with that was with reading. A lot. Freshman year was when I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for the first time, and it was one of the most important experiences I think I had in high school. I want to talk more about what that series means to me in more depth another time, but basically I latched on to Katniss because she was who I wanted to be at the time. I looked up to everything about her, especially because she was the same age as I was. For about 3 years now I have worn an arrow necklace every day because of her. I can’t imagine my freshman year without that book series. It was really something that kept me going when I was very lost.

My point is that young adult books have played a very big role in my life, and a very important role. I can give countless of other examples of when a YA book impacted me in a way that is unforgettable. I will always think that YA books are valid and important because it reminds audiences of the same age  that they are valid and important. Their problems are recognized and shared, and it’s a space for them to see themselves and feel heard. This is not to say that you have to be a teen to read YA, not at all–I just happen to believe that YA is most impactful to teens and their lives. I will always grateful to the countless number of young adult novels, good and bad, that I read in the last 5 years.

One of the biggest things that I think has contributed to my change in reading tastes is why I read and what I read for. When I read The Hunger Games, I was reading because I wanted to escape something. That’s how I read for the majority of high school. I wanted to slip away from where I was, become someone else and see their world through their eyes. I wanted to be entertained, to be taken to other places and shown things that don’t exist in the world I live in. And it was great and I loved it. But I don’t read to escape anymore, and I don’t necessarily read just to be entertained anymore, either.

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I’m majoring in English at my university and I’m doing so because I love language and different ways one can use language to accomplish different things. I love words. I reading from perspectives I’ve never read from before and learning from that experience. I love reading real stories from real people. I love reading with pictures and reading without any dialogue and reading with only dialogue. There are all these new things I’m interested in when it comes to literature and new things I’m looking for when I’m picking out my next read. The 2 most recent book purchases I’ve made are Talk by Linda Rosencrantz and Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. Talk, which I’m currently reading, is a novel told completely through dialogue without any prose and the conversations are only contextualized through the chapter titles. I’m loving it. It’s so experimental and different from anything I’ve read before and it raises so many interesting questions about how novels and literature work that I’m really excited about. Can’t and Won’t is a collection of flash fiction stories, which I’ve been really interested in writing and before I really know what I’m doing, I need to learn more about it which means reading a lot of flash fiction. These are two books I would never have bought for myself even a 6 months ago, but they are great examples of exactly what I’m interested in now and how different they are from the YA I’ve been reading for the past few years.

Looking back on the books I read in the second half of 2015, the book that really started this whole shift in reading focus was Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I talked about in Eleven Faves: The Best of 2015. It’s the real story of a young woman who was the first female to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. Cheryl’s story was so inspiring to me, so different from everything I had been reading for the last few years, that it opened something inside of me that made me realize how much I had changed and how my reading should reflect that. My reading interest shift wasn’t something I made myself do, though; it just happened after that.

I will always believe that young adult books are important because they have always been important to me and my life. I’m not saying completely goodbye to YA in any means; it’s just not my go-to category of book any more. I still think that there are great YA novels out there, but there are so many other great novels that aren’t YA that I didn’t even see as an option for me 6 months ago. I’m more openminded and curious about my reading now, and I’m excited about the giant world of literature that just opened up to me and everything there that’s waiting for me there.

Have you ever experienced a shift in reading tastes? When did it happen/what caused it? What type of book is your go-to? Do you read outside of your comfort zone often? I want to know; tell me in the comments!

xx, Emily

Comments

  1. Danielle says

    I am kind of going through the same thing. I’ve only really read YA for the past few years and I’ve recently started craving different genres. I don’t really know why, I guess I’m just ready for a completely different story than the typical YA novel. I still love YA and will continue to read it, but I want to read out of my comfort zone as well. As a result I have been clearing out my unread books. I still have a lot of books to read before I am allowing myself to buy or read anything else.

    • blueeyedbiblio says

      That’s something I’ve been dealing with, too! I’ve purged so many books in the last few months, it’s unreal. I’m trying a system where I can’t buy new books unless I get rid of some of my older unread ones that I’m no longer interested in. That’s something I forgot to mention, how my TBR doesn’t reflect my reading habits anymore. Thanks for commenting and reading!:)

  2. says

    I loved this post! It really shows how huge of an impact stories can make on our lives. I have always been fascinated by the classics both in high school and now in my English degree. I love learning about the rich history of literature our country has with the occasional world literature piece thrown in there. Every bookie account I follow (including you) have praised YA as a genre and I’ve read and LOVED the popular series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. I want to submerge myself more in this genre but need a great book to get me started. Any suggestions? Again, wonderful post!

    • blueeyedbiblio says

      YA suggestions? One of my favorite books I read last year was I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, which follow two twins named Noah and Jude and explores their changing relationship told in 2 different time streams. It’s incredible. I also loved Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda was a really cute, fun, quick read:)

  3. says

    I am super into this new-ish genre called creative nonfiction. It includes books like Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and I Am Malala. I love YA too, but I realized I like to read stories about people like me who change the world (without spells or wands or districts or fantastic love stories).

  4. Andrew Bonner says

    I really like this post. When I saw on your Instagram that you were going to college, I wondered how your tastes in reading might change–the reason being I’ve been graduated two years and I remember my reading tastes changing drastically from the beginning to the end of college. And even two years of graduate school in Creative Writing has taken my reading tastes in even stranger and more exciting directions. I like that you said you are more open-minded to other literature. I think that’s much better than saying you’ve outgrown YA literature because it isn’t necessary to outgrow the books you used to read, but simply to expand your horizons. You may even find you return to some of your childhood favorites–I know I already do on occasion and those books mean far more now than they ever did when I read them years ago. I just think this post is cool because it shows how reading is an activity that grows and changes with the passing years, something that is never abandoned but only modified.

    • blueeyedbiblio says

      Ahh, thanks so much for this comment and your thoughts! I love how you said that–reading is “something that is never abandoned but only modified”. So true. Yeah, when I first wrote this post I considered saying ‘outgrowing’ because I had heard so many other people describe it that way but then I realized that really wasn’t the case. I feel like that implies that YA books I have read no longer mean anything to me, as if I grew away from them, which is not the case at all. I’m not leaving anything, just expanding. I was pretty nervous posting this because I was afraid people would think I was being pretentious and dissing YA, so I really appreciate your comment:)

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