Are We Turning Into A Culture of Picky Readers?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

As a mom of five, I've worked hard to prevent my kids from becoming picky eaters. I decided early on that I couldn't be a short order cook, that whatever meal I made was what we were having and that's all there was to it.

And for the most part, my kids adjusted and learned to eat anything I served (except for an occasional banana aversion). I have to admit, my kids are less picky than I am.

However, I've noticed that I haven't been as successful in training my kids with their pickiness in reading. My junior high twins are in a girls' literature club this year, and they've had to delve into some longer classics—like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

When I asked one of the twins (the avid-reader) how she liked the books, she replied, "They're just not my style. I like action, adventure, and a faster pace."

As I've tried to help feed her voracious reading appetite, we run into trouble because she wants to read "modern" books and mostly suspense, mystery, or fantasy.

If I suggest a historical she'll say, "Mom, you know I don't like books that happen back then." In fact, she put down a book that was about fifteen years old because the author said "cellular phones" instead of "cell phones." Apparently the outdated lingo just didn't cut it.

Lest I convey that this pickiness in reading belongs only to my daughter, I confess—I'm picky too. I can't tell you the number of books I've NOT finished for one reason or another. In fact, I've skipped over books altogether because I didn't like the cover, a review, the blurb on the back, or an online sample.

I know I'm not the only critical reader. One only has to read GoodReads reviews to realize how finicky modern readers are. Readers are quick to share their opinions about what they liked and what they didn't.

I can't help thinking that we're turning into a culture of picky readers.

On the one hand, it seems inevitable. With the millions of books flooding virtual shelves and with the explosion of genres, subgenres, and even self-published e-books, we don't have the time and energy to devote to every book.

We also have less free time (see this post: Reading For Pleasure? Who Has Time for That Anymore?). And when we do finally have time, other things compete for our attention (movies, TV, video games, etc.).

Yes, invariably readers have to narrow down their choices, their favorite genres, and authors. We can't possibly keep up with everything that's out there.

But on the other hand, are we doing ourselves a disservice by making our choices too narrow? Are we losing something when we fill our plates with the same brain-food week after week, when we don't add variety, when we don't push ourselves to expand our taste buds?

Yes, sometimes we need our comfort food, those books we always enjoy, the books that make us feel good.

But other times we need a smorgasbord. We need to try new flavors, feast on the unknown, and enliven our taste palates. Sometimes we need books that move us slightly out of our comfort zones, books that broaden our horizons, and books that take us to new places and introduce us to different ways of viewing the world and life.

I normally gravitate toward historical romances. But I've tried several new genres over the past year, and was pleasantly surprised by not only how much I enjoyed them, but also how much I learned, particularly as it relates to my writing.

I'm also constantly challenging myself to new books through what I read with my children. This school year I've read books like James and the Giant Peach, Homer Price, Stuart Little, and the Tale of Despereaux (see my Reading With My Kids board on Pinterest). They're not books I would normally pick out on my own. But I'm richer, stronger, and more well-rounded for having broadened my reading tastes.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you think we're becoming a culture of picky readers? What is your genre of choice? Do you ever push yourself to try new authors and genres?

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