Book statistics, genre love, and genre hate
Last week I started an additional side project related to my reading efforts. Spurred on by an article in Salon talking about gender bias in book reviews, I have decided to keep a spreadsheet of my own reading efforts with the intention to derive some nice statistics at the end of the year. Will I end up giving print books higher ratings, on average, than eBooks? What about female authors versus male ones? There are so many questions to ask and answers to seek, and so many ways from which to view this information, that this project is impossible to resist.
Regardless of this, one thing has become obvious despite the small pool of books I’ve read so far this year: I really don’t like crime/detective fiction.
My chief complaints about both Zoo City and Empire State (oddly enough, both published by Angry Robot Books) had to do with their attempts to blend sci-fi/fantasy story elements with crime/detective story elements. The combination didn’t work for me, and in Empire State in particular, I found that the author’s application of sci-fi elements was used to wallpaper over some glaring inconsistencies.
This raises an interesting question, then: do I dislike the crime genre as a whole, the mixing of genres, or just the way those two books handled said mixing? Well, now that I’ve got my handy-dandy spreadsheet, the question will be a little easier to answer come December 2012, won’t it? Assuming, that is, that we don’t blow up in some Mayan calendrical apocalypse.
I read Old City Hall near the end of 2010 and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that when I went to Word on the Street in September 2011 and told the author, Robert Rotenberg, how much – oh my god, can I tell you what an intriguing character Albert Fernandez is? – he gave me an autographed copy of the book for free.
OCH is about a crime, and one of the main characters is a police detective. Does the book fall, then, under the rubric of crime fiction? Or rather, since many of its most important events take place in a courtroom, should it be classified as a legal thriller? Where does one draw the line dividing genres? In this case, is there even a line to be drawn? I have no idea. All I know is that I found the book’s analysis of coutroom behaviour fascinating, and wanted even more of it.
On top of that, I also enjoyed the movie Children of Men when I saw it, and that was based on a book by noted detective fiction writer P.D. James. Would I like her Adam Dalgleish books just as much if I tried one? I don’t know. Part of me doesn’t want to read mysteries because my knowledge of the genre is so poor that it will feel like work – the literary equivalent of eating broccoli (make sure to read at least 5-8 servings per year!). However, another part of me knows that I’m missing out on some amazing fiction because of my own wariness.
This is another issue that I hope tracking my reading on a spreadsheet will be able to rectify: If I can analyze my reading habits and figure out what patterns and holes there are in said habits, I’ll be closer to improving them and to becoming an even better editor.