Is My Age Why I Find It So Hard to Enjoy Fiction?

I Do No Finish (DNF) most novels I try these days. It makes me wonder… why is it so hard to find novels I want to complete?

Part of it is that I’m more honest with myself when I don’t enjoy a novel. Or maybe, because I DNF so many books these days, I expect most novels I pick up to be not worth finishing, and I find what I expect…

Somewhere, I read that when people get older, they prefer nonfiction over fiction. Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone. But I can’t help noticing that I’m much more likely to read a nonfiction book cover-to-cover these days. I think about them more after I put them down.

Yes, I pick nonfiction based on what interests me… but that applies to fiction too, doesn’t it?

The fiction which is most likely to capture my attention cover-to-cover these days is… very not mainstream. At least not mainstream in the United States. Two of my favorite fiction novels I read in 2021 are a) translations from other languages and b) published by university presses. Meanwhile, the recent bestsellers I tried bored me.

My review of Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading is coming soon to The Writing Cooperative. The book made me think much about my reading life. Anne Bogel’s tastes as a reader were ‘set’ in her early twenties when she finally got out of formal schooling, and I realize… that’s what happened to me too. That’s when I acquired my taste for wuxia. Does that mean that, if I had first run into the genre at a later time in my life, I wouldn’t have taken to it?

Years ago, I read a magazine article which said that people rarely listen to new kinds of new music (new artists, new styles, etc.) after the age of 27. That’s totally NOT been the case for me. It hasn’t been the case for my mother either. She listens to many more current pop songs than songs which were popular in her youth.

(I believe popular music was bad when I was in high school, and that high school students today are luckier to have better new popular music.)

So if I can still have ‘young’ taste for new pop music, why can’t I have ‘young’ taste for new popular fiction?

My local music store gives me a hint, actually.

When I browse music, I always go to one section: ‘World Music.’

My preferences in music have changed (when I was in high school I bought Haitian albums, recently I’ve been buying Korean albums lol) but divergent the musical styles are, they all seem to be filed in ‘World Music.’

A disproportionate portion of my favorite works of fiction—throughout my life, not just now—originated outside the U.S./U.K. trade publishing system. For example, I love Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels which, of course, were written in Italian, and a small publisher put out the English translation. Yes, it became a bestselling megahit, but it didn’t come from the Big 5 U.S./U.K. trade publishing conglomerates. I’ve never watched much TV since I grew out of Saturday Morning Cartoons, but the TV shows I have watched have disproportionately been… well, they’ve been in Mandarin because I was trying to improve my Chinese.

Maybe I should just read more fiction in Chinese. Though the past few novels I’ve tried in Chinese were duds.

All this frustration has an upside: it motivates me to put more effort into writing my fiction. If I can’t find what I want in other people’s novels, I’ve got to put it into my own.

2 thoughts on “Is My Age Why I Find It So Hard to Enjoy Fiction?

  1. I’ve attributed my DNF list to a time budget issue more than anything. The amount of time I can actually dedicate to pleasure reading is so much smaller now than it was when I was younger. During the summer in middle school and high school I would have a solid 12 hours a day that I could spend reading with only breaks for meals. Now my pleasure reading is confined to 30 minute blocks so my time is worth more so the books I’m reading have to really sell themselves to keep my interest. Non-fiction is just a safer bet because I already know that it’s about a topic I’m going to be interested in or I’m reading it for a specific purpose.

  2. I actually finish most fiction I start. I’ve yet to DNF much non-fiction, though, and I DNF tons of fanfic.
    However, I tend to buy mostly from smaller presses and from indie publishers. (Where, incidentally, a number of people I know personally publish stuff that I’m bent on reading. Some of which ist YA, pulp, crime or horror, which isn’t my usual genre preference. The same way I sometimes follow a fanfic author I like to a fandom I usually wouldn’t read.) I favor fantasy, drama plotlines and I tend to be put off by most white straight guy voices.
    I don’t ever ask bookstores for recs, given that I’m swimming in recs via my Facebook author bubble. Also, I like bookfairs with small presses because there I get to look at stuff I’d never see online or in bookstores. (Also, I think booksellers would hate my short but very distinct list of preferences, too.)
    Some of the reason I list my reading once a year is my tendency to find fanfic to like via bookmarks by authors of stories I like. If I like the mindset of a story/author, I’m likely to find stuff of a similar mindset in their recs. So, maybe I’m helping someone find stuff to read by cataloguing and commenting on what I read …?
    (I’m less flexible on my music genres. But I also read more than I listen to music.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.