Books I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 1

Reading is becoming a lost art.  FAR too many people have told me “I don’t read” or “I don’t think I’ve ever actually finished a real book before,” and it makes me want to cry.  And rant.  And (of course) write about it.  (Even though the only people who will read this are actually readers…)

I’m one of those people who became a bookworm and bibliophile the moment I learned to read.  I have my own personal library at home (I have about 140 books), and I’ve read all of them at least once (some of them more than 4 or 5 times).  Needless to say, I’ve read quite a few books – many of which have been novels and series that became popular within the last 5 years.  Of these books (the ones that have recently become popular), a few have been made into movies and therefore become hotly debated topics of conversation because of their added publicity and popularity.

So, in an effort to persuade people who “aren’t readers” to pick up a book “everybody else” is reading, I thought I’d start a series of posts about books I’ve come to love, but others love to hate.  I don’t know how long this series will last (it’s at least worthy of 2 or 3 more posts), but I’ll only cover one book (or series, or author) in each post.

For this post, it seems appropriate that I start with Stephanie Meyer and her books – The Twilight Saga and The Host.

Yes, I’m a Twilight fan – but not for the reasons I know all of you are thinking.  First off, I hate how people tend to lump the movies in with the books and call them the same thing.  They aren’t the same thing!  And this is coming from someone who has actually READ all the books!  Now I must admit, I do like the movies.  Yes, the first couple got off to a rough start because the cast wasn’t that great and they had small budgets, but once they got a little momentum, I think they’re a series of pretty well-made movies with mediocre-to-okay acting.

The books, however, are a whole different story (no pun intended).  I consider Stephanie Meyer to be a good author.  She’s simply a fantastic writer, and even though she’s been accused of taking cliches and somehow “remaking” them without actually remaking them well, her stories are deeper than that.  Beneath those first person narratives, there’s a pervasive theme that’s present in both the Twilight Saga and her novel, The Host: what does it mean to be human?  It’s a prevalent question!  All Meyer does is explore it in the context of a series of fiction novels.  In the Twilight books, the question is about whether vampires are still “human” in the sense that they retain essential elements of their humanity even after they’re changed into vampires.  In The Host, the question is whether the alien species that has invaded the earth and taken over humanity actually has elements of humanity in themselves, and whether being intimately linked with humans makes them more human.

Whether or not you care about these deeper topics, though, I think Meyer’s novels are worth reading simply because they capture a character’s perspective in a way that makes them easy to identify with and easy to understand.  Bella of Twilight and Wanda of The Host are admirable characters, and they have nuances to their personalities that you’re still discovering even as the story is coming to a close.  In short, Meyer’s characterization skills by themselves are worth witnessing.

One final note – because The Host was written after the Twilight Saga, the quality of writing is noticeably better, and it’s written more for an older audience than the Twilight books were.  Even if you’ve read the Twilight books and not liked them, I would still recommend reading The Host simply because it’s so different from the Twilight books.

What are your thoughts on this author?  What was your reaction when you read these books or saw these movies? Does my argument make you want to read them any more than you did before you read this post? I’d be very interested to hear your answers!  As always, thanks for reading!

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When Books Die…

They won’t.  I understand that a lot of people (especially authors and writers) are freaking out because, since the rise of technology has been swift and steady – and is predicted to continue rising, at an ever faster rate – print books, like so many print magazines and newspapers nowadays, will eventually die out.  I do understand that fear: I felt it too, for a while.  But then I realized that, as long as there are people like me who love books – the real, printed things with musty pages and rich-smelling ink – the book industry will never die out.

Of course, it’s unrealistic and impractical to pretend and claim that things won’t change.  I fully expect the publishing industry to evolve and adapt to the changes that are happening as of now, but that’s natural and normal.  Of course things must change as time goes on.  On the other hand, I think that some of the changes will mean that the number of people and books being read online, or on other things than printed pages, will increase, and that change, in term, will cause some major changes in the writing and publishing industries.

There’s actually a debate going on right now (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/checking-it-out/checking-it-out-part-i-reading.html) about whether reading from a page or a screen is “better,” but conclusions about the matter are mixed and… well… inconclusive.  Personally, I hold to the belief that people (including myself) read things slower and with better content retention when we read it from a printed page, as opposed to a document or page on a screen.  We’ve “conditioned” ourselves that way, to use a psychology term: that is, we’ve trained ourselves to read faster, skimming more, with more impatience and emphasis on speed while reading from a screen, while we’ve learned and trained ourselves to believe that sitting down with a book or looking over a page in hand is more intimate and meant to be slower, with better retention and attention.

Anyway, to sum up my argument, I think that the industry will change, yes, but I don’t think it’ll change so drastically that printed books will cease to exist.  I far, far prefer to read off a page than from a screen, and, as a writer who hopes to become published someday, I think that my role as a writer might also change somewhat.  It’s becoming more and more popular to self-publish now, and though I don’t think I’ll be doing that for myself, I am definitely involved with numerous online sites where I can post my work for publicity and critique/feedback.  So while I like some of the perks that Internet networking can provide, I don’t think it will replace printed books.