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What kind of a reader am I?

Recently I finished the Lord of the Rings books after being inspired to finally give them a go after enjoying the movies so much. Honestly, having now read it, I’ve got to admit- I don’t get it.

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Now this post won’t be about me going on a rant about the books and how I prefer the movies, even though I do. Rather, it’s going to be about why certain books appeal to me and others don’t. It’s not the genre I can’t get into, it’s the way it’s written. I did a post on books three years ago but to be honest, that post didn’t really go in depth enough about what kind of a reader I am, and having now read more books and experienced different genres, I think I can say what books appeal to me.

To me, a book needs to entertain. As a very visual person who loves films and television, books, without visual images, need to be able to make me feel like I’m seeing the characters do what’s happening in the story. That’s one problem I had with the Lord of the Rings books- everything was too vague. The parts I really liked such as Sam versus Shelob and Eowyn versus the Witch King worked because I could picture what was happening in my mind due to the descriptions. Helm’s Deep on the other hand was literally an afterthought in the book and I couldn’t picture anything happening except people whacking orcs with swords, as opposed to the awesome battle in the movie.

Part of the reason I like Derek Landy’s writing is the fact he writes his books like a movie script. Actions are described vividly and in detail, and characters are described well but still vague enough for me to imagine people while reading them (I know Skulduggery is supposed to be Irish and have a smooth, velvety voice, but David Tennant is too perfect to not be cast). This is the same effect I had while re-reading the first Harry Potter book recently. J.K. Rowling really goes in depth with the world and characters but still keeps things flowing and even though I’ve seen the movies countless times, the way the book described things meant I could have another picture in my mind.

I’m not saying books need to describe EVERYTHING- that’s partly why I gave up on the Harry Potter books later and just listened to the audio books and watched the films. That said though, now I’ve done Lord of the Rings, Order of the Phoenix will be a walk in the park, and I do want to read them again. Books are a style of writing where anything can happen, and what the author describes can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Books that just waffle on and on without having anything happen physically in the story really annoy me because then how am I supposed to imagine it in my head? Do I just imagine Harry standing there thinking? My favourite books always have something happening in the story on every page- just like a movie.

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Another book I read after loving the movie was Jurassic Park. I ended up enjoying that book too even though I adore the movie. Part of the reason was I had the characters in my head based on the movie, which I found really helpful. To me, if I can’t picture a character in my head, then the author has failed in making me care. I remember reading so many books in junior school where the characters were literally amorphous blobs in both what they looked like and personality. It’s why if I haven’t seen a movie beforehand of a book, then I need descriptions of the characters in the book to allow me to imagine people there. Obviously, if the books are based on something like the Doctor Who books or if I’ve seen something beforehand such as Jurassic Park, it’s easy, but in an original book, failure to set up visual images of characters in my head means I’m probably going to give up.

So what about genre? I obviously like sci-fi and fantasy, but just because those are the genres I read doesn’t mean I won’t try anything else. At school thankfully the books we read are getting better. I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird in Year 9, and in Year 10 we’re doing Jekyll and Hyde, and again I really like it, convincing me that 19th century gothic literature is awesome. Despite these books being really old, the writing is still vivid enough for me to have the same enjoyment while I read them as I do reading modern books.

So ultimately what it boils down to is the fact that a book needs to paint a picture in my mind. I am definitely a visual reader and need things to connect to while reading. That’s why some books appeal to me, while others don’t, even if I love the movies they’re based on.

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About Ben Williams

I'm 16 years old. I like animals, lasagne, comic books, films, role-playing games and Doctor Who. I write cool stuff - Doctor Who, science fiction, film reviews, and quirks about Britain. I have a blue-tongued skink called Georgy and a cat called Billy.

3 responses »

  1. Well done on reading Lord of the Rings. I didn’t get it either!

    Reply
  2. You are not the first person not to ‘get’ Lord of the rings and you certainly will not be the last. You are now a member of a large and non-exclusive club which I joined over 50 years ago!
    I absolutely agree with your conclusion – any novel that does not inspire mental pictures is very hard work and probably not worth reading.

    Reply
  3. I completely agree with you that the best books build pictures in your head. For me, however, it goes one step further – those pictures have to create the right emotions and that can only be done through a language and style that captures your imagination and your heart.

    I have read a lot of books with great characters, good storyline and plenty of action, which have failed completely to draw me in because the writing style has got in the way of my immersion into the story instead of acting as the pathway into that story. Charles Dickens is the perfect example. His stories are incredible, his characters unforgettable and some of his action is breathtaking, but I find his books incredibly hard work.

    And then there are books where I will re-read paragraphs, savoring them and the emotions the invoke, because they are so perfectly written. John Grisham, Stephen King, Jane Austin and Emily Bronte all write in completely different styles, but they are authors that I will read over and over again, not just for the stories but for the beautiful use of language.

    For me, the ultimate book, which was given to me by your father on my 13th birthday and has been read every year since, is Gone With The Wind. Yes, of course I adore the story (and I’m pretty sure you would hate it), but it is the incredibly compelling writing that makes me return to it. The absolute perfection of the language and just the right amount of detail to leave something to the imagination combine to create a book that is my ultimate comforter.

    Reply

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