A few weeks ago (okay, more like months) I kept stumbling across blog posts – predominantly from fashion bloggers – about the pressure to keep up with the latest trends, and it got me thinking about whether the same kind of feelings and expectations also present themselves when it comes to books.
I think it does.
Thinking about it as I write this ‘The Book of Dust’ seems a tentative example but bear with me. His ‘Dark Materials Trilogy’ has always been talked about it’s a series that has transcended its status as a children’s book. The imagery, religious messages and writing style seemingly make it a favourite for many people. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that the announcement of a prequel was met with so much excitement. Twitter became awash with people announcing re-reads of The Northern Lights (Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, there were videos released by Waterstones, and I am sure other booksellers, countdowns could be spotted; everyone seemed to be excited. The excitement was motivating, and I found myself also re-reading the series.
I enjoyed my re-read; it had been 12 years since I’d first read them and I was keen to see whether my experience of reading it as an adult would differ from when I read them as a child. During a trip to Waterstones shortly after The Book of Dust’s publication, I found myself paying the money and bringing it home.
Here we reach the crux of this post. I don’t know why I bought it, especially in hardback. I think the cover played a large part; it’s gorgeous and reminded me a lot of Noah’s Ark. But really, I wanted to be able to say that I had read it, that I was excited about it, that I was one of the readers who was drawn in by the layers and the depth of Pullman’s writing. I wanted to prove to myself that I was a fan – I wanted to prove it to others.
I look at Twitter, Goodreads, other blogs, Booktube and I find myself feeling out-of-touch. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place, but the main excitement and discussion seem to focus predominantly on Fantasy or Literature – neither of which I’m really a fan of. A new publication from Phillip Pullman felt like something I could join in with: I knew the characters, some of the imagery, and the plot (for the most part). It also felt like a natural progression – confirmation about my feeling towards the series still outstanding – I have kept the books for 12 years, and it felt slightly inevitable that I should continue the collection.
This is not to say that at the time I wasn’t eager, I was. I came home and showed off my purchase, I flicked through and smelt the pages, I added it to Goodreads and to the TBR part of my shelves. And – apart from a few optomistic trips to work in the hopes that I’d open it during my lunch-break – there it stayed. It’s still there and I don’t see it moving anytime soon. Now that we are almost 6 months post its release, the excitement has dissipated. It’s been rated, reviewed, and shelved. The buzz has moved onto something else and with that buzz, my motivation has also begun to wander. I still admire the cover and how striking it looks, but it also looks intimidating and dense.
Really, it’s not my kind of book. I got through the original three because of intrigue about my feelings towards it, other people were doing the same thing, and because I had the time. I sat in the garden and read and it didn’t really matter if it took a while because I had the time. Now, while I acknowledge that, compared to a lot of people, I still have a lot of free time, I have less time to read and I’d rather pick up a book that I want to read rather than one that feels like an obligation.
We all compare ourselves to others – it’s human nature – but I want to stop comparing my reading habits to others. I want to stop worrying about whether people take me seriously as a book-lover and as a reader because I don’t read the classics or the new release. I want to read books I want to read and not because I feel as though there’s a book-lovers reading list. As I said, The Book of Dust may feel like a tentative example. Maybe I should have instead mentioned that I have no desire to read the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, but it was Book of Dust that prompted this thought process and so it’s the example I chose.
Have you read The Book of Dust, what did you think? Are there any popular/hyped books that you have little interest in reading? Let me know in the comments below?