I read, therefore…

Many different views were presented in all forms of media on the speech given by Lionel Shriver at the Brisbane Writers Festival. It is not my intention to add to the various eloquent articles already written. However, the piece written by Sonia Orchard, which I share here has certainly made me think about the books I read and the authors who write them. Do I choose my reading material because of the content or genre of the book, or is my choice based on the author? I believe I’m an “author” person.

I am the first to admit I often stay within my comfort zone, sticking to authors I know, or authors who are recommended as being similar to the ones I know. I often read everything of theirs I can find, sometimes one after the other like a starved woman at a feast. When I reach the last of their works, I find myself in a state of disbelief. Surely they wrote more? There must be at least one book of theirs I hadn’t managed to find. So I google and ask librarians and search, until that moment when I realise the author has indeed written all they are going to write. In some cases, having taken their final breath, there is no chance of anything more from them.

Of course there are times I follow recommendations from friends or websites or blogs; opening the first page on previously unknown works. I have discovered many new favourites by this method but I have also found quite a few authors I would prefer never to read again, sometimes it is difficult to read more than the first couple of pages, a chapter at the most. Here I have to mention there are certain genres I simply wouldn’t read no matter who wrote them. Amongst them are science fiction, fantasy, pornography and anything which has gratuitous violence or focuses on subjects which are totally depressing. Does that make me shallow? So be it. Unless I am reading for research, where lately the material has been all about war, hardship and depression, I prefer to be entertained or at least be able to relax and not to have to think too hard.

Do I tend to read mostly middle class, white, male authors? Not exclusively. I do read many books written by women, possibly more than men. However, they are probably mostly middle class and white.

But what does that say about me as a reader? I have thought long and hard and I don’t feel as if I am consciously discriminatory. I believe I am drawn to the books I can relate to. Books which reflect a way of life I can understand. Stories which amuse me, entertain me or, in the case of crime or thriller, keep me on the edge of my seat. If I cannot relate to the main character or the setting, I find it difficult to continue reading.

Should I experiment more with the authors I read? Perhaps. Should more authors who are not middle class, white or male be published? Definitely. There are many adventurous readers out there who will read their stories. And I believe we should all be encouraged to write our stories, no matter who reads them.

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