The Thursday Throwdown

Welcome to the second edition of The Thursday Throwdown.

For The Thursday Throwdown, I'll be reading two books with a similar plot (or for non-fiction, two books on the same subject) and comparing the two. For the first edition of The Thursday Throwdown I compared two novels, so this time I thought it would be fun to try it with non-fiction!

A few weeks ago, I got into a library-hold frenzy and reserved several books that are memoirs of a person's reading life. What could be better than reading about other people who love books as much as I do.

I started with this book



and immediately encountered this quote, "Rarely does the daily paper move me to reexamine my own life. But a recent New York Times piece quoted a Chinese scholar whose 'belief in Buddhism . . . has curbed his appetite for books.' Mr. Chan says, 'To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." Wow, I'm really going to have to disagree with Mr. Chan. If I followed his advice and kept my mind free for my only my own thoughts I would spend all my time mentally debating which Brady Bunch character I find the most annoying and wondering whether my Grandma was deliberately trying to copy Nancy Reagen's sense of style or was it a coincidence? Do I really need more space in my brain for "deep" thoughts like that? I think I prefer letting other people's thoughts take up some of that mental space.

Once I made it past that first thought provoking paragraph (which the author disagreed with as well), I became a little bit bored. There was too much baseball talk. My brain does not treat sports talk as if it contains actual words. Instead, it's like when the grown-ups are talking on Charlie Brown.


I feel like I'm being a bit unfair to this book because it wasn't badly written. It was just lacking in fun. According to the author, she read high-brow literature even as a child. Maybe I'm letting the fact that I spent my tween and teen years reading books with titles like Six Months to Live and The Soldier's Baby influence my opinion too much here, but I spent the whole book having imaginary arguments with the author that went a little something like this: "Oh come on. Didn't you even once read a Danielle Steel novel, or secretly sneak behind your Mom's back when you were 12 and read a book about a man who was having an affair with his brother's girlfriend in the stables."

This is all hypothetically speaking, of course. I would never EVER read such a trashy book. . . Okay I admit it. I did. Once. Okay, twice. Or more. But definitely not more than 50 times and most of the people were having affairs in much classier places than a stable. Occasionally the affair would happen in a car. Or on a roof. And it was just a passing phase that lasted for a month . . . or a year and half.

The point is that I always wonder about people who claim to never read anything but the classics. Am I the only one who wavers between highbrow classics and mindless, fluffy (but highly entertaining) trash? I love to read so much that I love it all; the classics, the trash, the wholesome Christian novels, the mindless fluff, books that are great, books that are so bad they almost loop back around and become good again, and everything in between. And I was really hoping to find a memoir about books that was written by someone who feels the same way. So, while this wasn't a badly written book, it wasn't for me.

On to the next book:



The author almost immediately expresses disgust for the concept of reading bad books for the sake of entertainment. I'm guessing she would really not approve of the first edition of the Thursday Throwdown. About five pages into this book I started debating in my head, wondering if it's really necessary for me to find a literary kindred spirit in order to enjoy a memoir about books. By page 7, I started to feel like I was on an uphill drive, up a steep mountain, in a car with wheels that are starting to fall off. By page 11, I gave up on the book. Again, it wasn't a badly written book. But I couldn't handle reading another 200 pages from someone so highbrow. Aren't there any authors who spent their childhood summers reading just one more page of Trixie Belden or Cherrie Ames under the covers. (Side note: why do all the wholesome children's books written for kids in the 50's and 60's have main characters with names that sound like porn stars?) Aren't there any memoir writers who walked into a used bookstore and just HAD to buy the novelized version of General Hospital. 

And for those of you who were wondering, yes there really is a novel of General Hospital.

And yes, I really did buy it:


And I can't even claim it was some crazy thing I did when I was a kid. It happened six months ago. My only regret is that I've let it sit in my to-read stacks for so long.

I decided that since I didn't actually finish book # 2, I would give this genre a third try, although at this point I was seriously questioning a few things; 1) do I have crappier taste in books than these authors or 2) am I just more honest about my crappy taste?





Book # 3 turned out to be significantly better than the first two. Although, the author was almost as pretentious about her reading habits as the first two authors. At one point she starts talking about how she questions whether she can stay friends with someone who likes books she hates. I kept searching for some hint that she meant this in a tongue-and-cheek way, but she seemed to actually mean it. I will admit that I've said the following thing to someone I know, "You don't like frosting. I don't even know how to relate to you right now. I once put frosting on a Hershey's candy bar. I'm not even sure we can be friends right now." But I was always joking (I was joking about the not being able to be friends part. I was dead serious about putting frosting on a candy bar. And it was delicious!)

But, aside from the occasional moment of pretentiousness, the book contained some of the fun I was looking for. Not as much fun as I would have liked, but it was still an enjoyable read and the clear winner of the three books!

Comments

  1. Maybe people only write about their literary choices if they are show-offs.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Maybe! I wonder if they're too embarrassed to admit to reading bad books. I used to be like that. Clearly I've gotten over that!

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  2. I appreciate your visit to my blog Angela. Thanks for your comment.
    Julia

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    1. You're welcome. I was happy to visit. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  3. I hate memoirs because I find them self indulgent. Which is funny, since I love reading blogs!

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    1. I normally love memoirs. But there is definitely the potential for a memoir to become incredibly annoying.

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  4. Hey, Angela! This is Linda from Linda’s Life Journal. I came by to meet you when I saw your comment and I’m so glad I did! I love the way you love books! I do, too! A book about what we read? Hmmmm.......

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  5. Ha ha! You crack me up! I get so annoyed with people who only read literary books or classics. Where’s the fun in that?! I used to read so many regency romances that my mom forbade me from reading them and I had to hide them from her. I love fluffy books just as much as I love classics. But not every book is for everyone and there’s no right or wrong kind of book.

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    1. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who was hiding books from my Mom!

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  6. Great post. You made me laugh more than once. I recently came across a box of books my grandma owned, or maybe they were my mom's, that were novels based on 'As The World Turns'. I may have read them once, and I'm thinking I may read them (again?) this summer!
    I think I'll also pick up Ruined By Reading....you had me at 'baseball talk'. For me sports, and particularly baseball, is a metaphor for life!

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    1. That sounds so cool. I never realized until 6 months ago that soap opera novels were even a thing. I'm going to do some research and see if there any books for other soap operas!

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  7. I'm going have to disagree with Mr. Chan as well! Reading is awesome, especially when your own thought are on a downer. It can be a real pick me up when you don't need to dwell on negative things! I think I'd be rolling my eyes with the first two books. I can't stand pretentious readers who look down on those of us who like to have fun while reading. Reading some of the classics can be painful and boring! I'm not in school anymore and can read whatever I want, why am I going to waste my time on unpleasant things? Love this post! You definitely had me laughing! :)

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    1. Thank you. I enjoy a classic now and then, but most of them are depressing so I generally stick with the happier ones like Jane Austen. I can't imagine reading nothing but the classics. I need a little fluffy, trashy entertainment now and then.

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  8. Yes, the first two memoirs sound pompous, but I've come to realize that some people who have made the transition to high brow literature had at least a phase of trashy romances under their belt, reason why they decided to read better books. :-)

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    1. I can totally understand the people who had a trashy phase and then transitioned to something better. The authors of both of the first two books claimed to never read those kind of books, not even as children. I found it hard to believe.

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  9. Wait a minute, there's a General Hospital story that actually ends? I'm amazed if it says anything other than, "To be continued..."

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    1. I checked the last page just to see, and it doesn't say "to be continued."

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  10. Yes, it does sound self serving. I read a few memoirs, some really good ones too.

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    1. I usually really like memoirs. You're so right, there are some great ones out there!

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  11. This is a really interesting idea. Sorry the first two didn't really work out for you. I have a hard time reading non-fiction purely because they tend to lack fun for me. They do sound pretty stuck up in their readings though.

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    1. I didn't like non-fiction for a long time either because it felt too much like school. But now I love it!

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  12. Thank you for visiting my blog today and leaving a comment. Now I am visiting you. Personally, I just like to read everything. Too much literary reading, which I do really enjoy, leaves my mind tired sometimes. I like mysteries, thrillers, women's stories, historical fiction, and everything in between. Most of all, I feel people should read what they want to read. Who is to say what that should be?

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    1. I feel the same way. I enjoy reading the classics, but I like to alternate it with books that are more fun!

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  13. I am not a fan of pretentiousness in books about books either -- there have been some I enjoyed anyway, as long as there are parts I can relate to or parts that can be more generalized to all readers, not just readers with the same taste as the author. I have Ruined by Reading on my shelf but haven't read it yet -- The Child That Books Built is pretty high on my TBR though and I have pretty high hopes for that one :)

    For something lighter, check out -- Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores -- so funny! And a LOVED The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma -- a memoir about a father and daughter who go on a read-aloud streak up until college -- it was really sweet and excellent on audibook :) Not all books about books will work for everyone, but there's gotta be at least one great one out there for all kinds of readers!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll add them to my to-read list!

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  14. You are not alone- I definitely go back and forth between 'books I would bring up at a dinner in mixed company to feel smart' and books I will only admit I read to my girlfriends. And usually those books are young adult fiction. I have had many a panicked moment when someone asks me what I'm currently reading and I am on book 4 of some super trashy YA alt-universe romance novel (that I would LOVE to discuss, but am 100% sure they haven't even heard of).

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    1. Haha. I was once reading a Danielle Steele novel and it was in my car and someone almost hit my car and my first thought was, "I can't die with a Danielle Steel novel in my car."

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  15. It makes me sad that they were such pretentious readers! What about badly written science fiction stories? And fantasy novels that are full of tropes? I feel like really really pretentious readers are making reading more work than fun and I feel bad that they're missing out.

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    1. I feel the same way. Reading should be fun!

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  16. Oh my.....I wished I had more space in my brain to hold more things, maybe that way I would stop forgetting the the simple things I need to remember daily!! haha...But then again, there are times when I laugh cause I remember something that has been stored up there for YEARS! I say I pull that thought out of the archives! I am not much of a reader these days, I have way to much stuff in the pot being stirred these days. I have tried reading several books only to get a chapter or two read and can't seem to get into it. When I do find one I take it to bed with the promise I will read a chapter or two each night to help me settle down from the day.

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    1. I like the read one chapter of a favorite book every night before bed. I'm re-reading through my "favorites shelf" while reading new books during the day. It's such a nice way to fall asleep.

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  17. Good discussion. I agree, I like to mix up my reading, from light to harder stuff back to light to moderate. I like reading all sorts of genres whether thrillers & summer reads to literary fiction. My brain would get too bogged down otherwise. Cheers.

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  18. That is a great idea, pricing things as you go along.

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