If the world could be separated into two kinds of people, a good way to categorize things, I think, would be between those who have read Harry Potter and those that haven’t. I fall into the latter camp. When I tell people I have never read Harry Potter, I almost always receive a gasp or similar look of horror in return. “You’ve never read Harry Potter?! Really?” or something along those lines. And when I tell the person the reason why: I’ve never been particularly interested, J.K. Rowling has enough fans, I would rather read x, y, or z, the justification still doesn’t seem good enough. As an agent that does represent some YA, it’s almost sacrilegious to mention that my eyes have not had the pleasure of delving into the world of Harry Potter. As if to add insult to injury, I have watched some of the Harry Potter movies, including the last installment. Gasp, the horror, the horror.
Maybe one day I’ll read it, but in the meantime, my list is full of books I’d rather read in lieu of Potter, not to mention the manuscripts and queries I receive that have taken priority in my reading list. Perhaps I should take a speed reading course just so I can get through the entire Harry Potter cannon. Right now though, I can’t justify it. After all, I still haven’t read James Joyce’s Ulysses, ostensibly one of the most difficult reads in the entire English literature cannon, so why should Harry Potter deserve a spot above Ulysses?
In picking a book, in our increasingly media-saturated and attention-deprived world, what rules or methods do you have to keep your reading list manageable? I have some rules for reading, some of which you may (or may not) find helpful:
1) Does the subject matter interest you? No offense but I’ve also never read Twilight. This doesn’t make me a book snob (alas, I have seen some Twilight movies). I’m just not interested based on the subject matter. I’d rather read a riveting memoir or another Jon Krakauer book (I loved Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, and his other books on are my list).
2) Is the author one you have read before and enjoyed? Usually a good bet is that if you enjoy the author, you’ll like his or her other books. In high school I went through a Jane Austen stint and read most of her books, one of my favorites being a lesser-known or less-popular one called Persuasion. I enjoyed every single one. I also try to follow authors that are new-ish and have written books I enjoyed, such as Chang Rae Lee. His book, The Surrendered is on my list because I loved reading Native Speaker.
3) What do your friends, who know your tastes, recommend? Often, I’ll ask my friends who know my literary taste, what they are reading. Usually they are pretty spot on. Sometimes there are misses, but it’s good to branch out and ask a friend what book they are reading that may not usually fall into your list.
4) What is everyone else reading? I admit it, I was curious about The Hunger Games but resistant to the mass-mentality that made it so popular (sort of along the lines of Harry Potter). I read the first installment and loved it. I haven’t gotten to book two or three yet but imagine I will in due course. Another book that has garnered a huge following, especially among the Stay at Home Mom contingency, is 50 Shades of Grey. I’m sure you’ve already heard what that one is about.
5) The close your eyes and point test. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like reading from my list, I will take a total risk and go to the library, run my fingers along the spines of book, close and point. I’ve come across some surprises and some duds, but it’s never a boring experience.
What popular books and movies have you not read or seen?
In short, there are really no rules about what to read and what not to read. Everyone has biases and everyone has their favorites. Some of us may be romance novel junkies, some of us love paranormal thrillers, and some of us don’t read (which is sad!).
And yes, a few of us have never read Harry Potter.