This is Embarrassing

I have this bad habit where I don't often read new books. This is not to say I don't like reading. We have 4 bookshelves at home and too many books to fit on them. I read everything from graphic novels to children's picture books to "classic" literature and a healthy smattering of total pulp fiction. But I have been made sick from bad books too many times to trust new ones. And the descriptions always sound the same:

Contemporary Lit:
Annabelle, a sharp-witted research assistant/graduate student/lab assistant in the British Museum/Smithsonian/Oxford university has a totally obscure speciality that no one else cares about and spends her time with her fourteen cats at home eating sad, nutritionally empty one-person meals, and thumbing through antiquated card catalogs that everyone else wants to throw out. Then she makes a discovery about a poet/artist/family member/well-known historical figure that throws them into a completely different light and may irrevocably change Western culture as we know it. Now her obscure specialty is relevant and she's on the cusp of a major breakthrough. If nasty corporations don't force her to sell out first.

Historical Fiction:
Catarina is a noblewoman serving Queen Isabella during Spain around 1492. Tremendously accomplished, sharp as a wit and devastatingly beautiful to boot, she catches the eye of a handsome Italian bent on persuading her queen and king to fund his fail-safe trip to India. Unfortunately, Catarina learns a secret while between the sheets with this man that may ruin the whole effort. Who does she love more? Her country? Or this guy?
Long, convoluted history of a place that doesn't actually exist, with cultures based on existing cultures (seriously, why didn't you just stick with historical fiction? the lack of dragons), way too many characters to keep track of including the following: Strong-Silent-type guy who is nursing a broken heart and is far too moral and committed to completing the mission of the book. Will come off as a complete asshole but we know better thanks to the author (who probably wants to be this guy). Smarty-Tomboy female character who doesn't have great social skills, far too absorbed by her magic/medicine/archery skills to realise that guys find her devastatingly beautiful; obviously will end up with strong-silent type. Vapid-But-Beautiful woman, who turns out to be tough as nails when the going gets tough. Nasty-Handsome-Self-Absorbed man who the author can't decide if he's a baddy or not and will spend half the novel switching between both possibilities. Add a healthy sprinkling of wise old father figures and prophets/mentors and some puffs and big bangs. The story will actually start to move around book 5 of 11.

Ugh. It might be good. But who the hell knows?
I would rather stick with the books I'm on solid ground with: Little Women, The Historian, Cold Mountain, The Chronic(what)cles of Narnia, and Harry Potter, Franny and Zooey (in event of emergencies). It doesn't matter to me that I know the general plot of these books. Every time I read them I find something new. I find a new level of significance in the advice from Marmee to her daughters; or the love affair in Cold Mountain is that much more tragic. Sometimes there are actually details that I've totally forgotten and thus the book is a little new to me.

I know I should spread my wings, step outside my comfort zone and read a story I have no idea where it's going. It will broaden my mind! Open up new ideas! Explore new worlds! Boldly go where so many have before! Bite me. I have. Co-workers loan me books, friends say there's this book I'd find really interesting due to my art background. Halfway through these books, like The Alienist, I have identified the killer. I've also identified factual errors.

I pull these books off the shelves at Barnes and Noble and the library and I groan. How the hell did these people get published? Why can't I discern that it, therefore, isn't all that difficult, just tedious wading through rejection letters? But apparently, there is always a sap at some publishing who feels this is good reading material.


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