Read a book you think you’ll hate in 2010

Why you should get out of your literary comfort zone this year

Topics: Books,

Read a book you think you'll hate in 2010Image of a hand selecting a red book from a bookshelf(Credit: Andreas G. Karelias)

Every New Year, I make a couple of major resolutions (write a book, get my finances in order, renovate my decrepit kitchen) and one minor one: keep a list of the books I read. And every year, I usually manage to check off the more difficult items while failing abysmally at maintaining that damn list.

A recent post by Patrick on the blog for Vroman’s Bookstore in Los Angeles is a reminder of why anyone who reads a lot might want to keep a journal of each year’s books, preferably with notes. Even the truncated lists I’ve kept in the past seem more revealing to me now than any diary. What we tell ourselves about ourselves tends to be a bit of a performance; what interests — or bores — us is who we really are.

A journal of the year’s reading can also serve as a reminder of your own blind spots. Now that blogging has made personal year-end lists ubiquitous, I can’t help noticing the persistence of many lamentable old patterns: A lot of men only read books written by other men. (Women, with the exception of romance buffs, tend to be more ecumenical.) Other people exclusively read fiction or nonfiction, and still others never crack a book that wasn’t originally written in English or part of a particular genre, or about a favorite region.

Even those of us obliged to read a wide variety of books develop our own highly specific crotchets. I will resist any book set on a ranch like a cat fighting a bath; likewise, memoirs by women obsessed with their mothers. If I happen to flip through a graphic novel and see a scene in which 20-something characters complain about their relationships in a cafe — back on the display table it goes posthaste. Historical fiction set in early 20th-century America, especially the silent movie business? No, thank you very much.

You Might Also Like

We all have our little biases, and far be it from me to suggest that people force themselves to read books they don’t like, but sometimes that’s all these preferences are — prejudices. Getting out of your rut can lead to unexpected and exhilarating rewards. I once had “ironclad” rules against novels about stage magicians or rabbis in Prague (you’d be surprised how many of these there are), but if I’d stuck to that, I’d have missed one of my favorite books from the 2000s, Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.”

Champions of the book like to think that reading broadens the mind and expands the sensibility. It can’t do that, though, if the reading lists we choose from are too narrow. So this year, I’d like to join Patrick at Vroman’s by inviting Salon’s readers to make and share resolutions that will nudge them into new literary territory. He’s sworn to read at least two novels published before 1900. For myself, I resolve to try at least one contemporary French novel (another phobia) and at least three works of nonfiction on science, which I tend to skip out of sheer laziness. (I’m still drawing the line at stage magicians, though.) How will you widen your own reading horizon in 2010?

Laura Miller
Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia" and has a Web site,

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>