Are You Reading Comfortably?

I do love it when a book illustrates the habits that we have, and some of them are unconscious, when it comes to reading. Some of the responses to reading Neil Bartlett’s ‘Skin Lane’ over the weekend made me think about comfort reading, and I don’t meant the books that we read when we need a read we can trust, are having a bad time or need a gentle reading break. Not do I mean our ‘guilty pleasure reads’ on the sofa with a cup of tea and endless supply of chocolate hobnobs (or is it just me that does that?) I mean those books that take us out of our comfort zone and make us look at things we might not be prepared for.

I will use ‘Skin Lane’ as an example. It interested me that when we announced the NTTVBG earlier in the year I had some comments and some emails apologising that people wouldn’t be reading my choice because ‘it just isn’t my cup of tea’ or ‘I wouldn’t like it’ and I thought ‘fair enough, each to their own’ as I don’t judge anyone’s reading habits as reading is pleasure and can be a personal thing but in my head it begged the question ‘how do you know you wont like it if you don’t try it?’

I can understand where people were coming from in respect to ‘Skin Lane’ as it has a subject and plot many won’t be quite at ease with. It’s the tale of a man in his mid forties who is a bit of a loner; works in the fur trade (interestingly a part of the book that people found most shocking in some cases) and has fallen into an obsessive love with a boy of sixteen he dreams of torturing and killing. It’s not an easy subject or everyone’s cup of tea but interestingly people who didn’t think they would like it but still went for it and read it thought it was a good and in some cases great book. Some didn’t like it but they still tried it. Interesting how those who did read it and liked it were very hesitant to say they ‘enjoyed it’ because of the subject matter. Is there something wrong with you if you like a good murder?

‘Blacklands’ by Belinda Bauer, which I read earlier in the year, is another good example. Many people slated it for being a book about a paedophile in prison and a young boy on the outside world. It was pretty much what the subject was about but the book was about so much more. It did look in a fictional way at some of the murder cases of the 80’s, it was also an interesting and sometimes moving look at how a family survives the murder of a child weeks, months, years and decades on, the way that it changes a family and personalities within that family forever. People would miss out on that because of the paedophile aspect, would they miss out on any book about slavery or war as they aren’t comfortable subjects in reality and yet they seem to have been deemed okay subject matter now. It is all fiction though.

I used to be in a face-to-face book group I have discussed before where we used to choose five books and vote. Now I am not sure if one of the members did this just to sway the votes or genuinely but if a book had murder, abuse, rape, killing (knocks out all war books not just crime books as you might initially think) or violence in it. Now try and whittle that down to a book a month for a few years, it’s just a bit of a nightmare. It also brings up another subject of ‘don’t join a book group if you don’t want to open up your reading’. I also wonder if some people only read ‘happy books’ and I wonder what the point of that is?

I am very aware I have been mentioning others and their comfort zones yet this is my blog of my bookish thoughts so I should really talk about my habits. I like a read that challenges me and takes me to places and experiences that I might never have been or ever go to be they the light and good or the dark and bad. I will admit I can be a hypocrite, come on we all are sometimes. Some book genre’s make me think ‘oh no I wouldn’t read that’ fantasy is one; I just don’t think it’s for me. I do try it now and again though. I am not really on about genres though more subject matter with this post.

The book group I am currently in brings up some good examples, though I will only use the one for now.  ‘Flowers for Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes was a book chosen that when I heard the blurb I thought ‘oh no’ I just didn’t think a book that was firstly a science fiction classic (genres do have comfort boundaries for me sometimes) it was also about a mouse that became supremely intelligent and then a mentally disabled young man that did the same. It just sounded really out of my comfort zone, and yet I loved it, was incredibly moved by it and have been raving about it ever since. Isn’t that what readings about?

I decided after Sunday to make a pact with myself that I would read some of the books over the next year, this is not a challenge but a little guide line to follow now and again, that I don’t think would be my cup of tea such as;

  • More 18th century books (I find the style a little off putting)
  • Read some of the Russian greats (I imagine they are boring and I know in my head I am wrong)
  • Read more sci-fi and try some fantasy

I am sure there are more books I turn away from because of comfort so I might add to that list. If you have any titles that fit the above criteria and are rollicking good reads do let me know as I like a challenge, in fact dare me… throw a gauntlet down.

Do you only stick to books within your comfort zone? Do you only read happy books and if so why? Which books do you just simply think you won’t enjoy? Do you think books are about reading what you know and like and sticking with it or do you prefer to challenge yourself with every other read? Which books have taken you completely out of your comfort zone and yet have been amazing reads? Do let me know.

49 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

49 responses to “Are You Reading Comfortably?

  1. I am continually pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Sometime my initial reaction is correct and I don’t enjoy the book, but often I am rewarded with some of the best books I’ve ever read.

    I tend to only read books that others have recommended, so don’t venture into unknown genres blind, but there are some fantastic books buried in dodgy covers!

    Good luck with your challenge to stretch yourself!

    • I do try and push myself out of my comfort zone but it can be a big scary book world out there with many a dud book (for me – could be a delight for another reader) along the way.

  2. Well firstly I must be wrong in the head as I found Blacklands quite an easy read considering the subject(I just didnt like the ending)

    I have joined various online book clubs over the years and I always read the book even if I dont initially like the look of it as to me thats the whole point of a bookclub. The only time I havent really liked a bookclub choice is when the book has been too ‘light and fluffy’

    I tend to shy away from chicklit and fantasy – I have tried reading these genres a few times over the years esp when people recommend them but they just aren’t my thing.

    • Haha I didn’t think it was hard reading as in style some of the bits about how he enticed young boys into his van was a bit eekish but I thought it was a brilliant thriller.

  3. I am not always very good at pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but 6 years ago I started following the Orange prize and i find that reading titles at random from the longlist leads me to books that I wouldn’t otherwise read. Sometimes I feel I should go further outside my comfort zone, but there is only so much time to read!!

    • Reading things like the Orange longlist is great for broadening your horizons with fiction now and again, thats a very valid point. I think people think that I am anti the Orange prize this year and I am really not.

      You are right though, we do only have a certain time we can devote to reading.

  4. I loved Flowers for Algernon, it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting as it was in the keystage 3 reading cupboard at school (supposedly suitable for 11-13 yr olds).
    I read outside of my comfort zone all of the time, but that means I’ve discovered some fantastic authors and genres – Neil Gaiman, Graphic Novels, The Wasp Factory. I’m always a bit wary, but I give the book 50 pages to grab my attention.

    • I thought Flowers for Algernon was utterly brilliant. I was suprised its school reading too. I have an 80 page rule for any book that I am struggling with, I normally know a few paragraphs in whether its a book for me or not, if not I try and press on.

  5. Dot

    I have only recently started to push myself out of my comfort zone but I think it can only be a good thing as I know that I have discovered some new genres that I would have been missing out on. It is annoying though when a book really doesn’t agree with you as I often feel annoyed that I could have been reading something that I would have really enjoyed!

    • There is that fact that you might end up wasting some time on a few dodgy books but then its worth it condiering that you might find some utter gems that you never thought you could and a whole new world of books and authors opens up before you eyes.

  6. gaskella

    Simon – I must re-read War and Peace – I only ever skimmed the war chapters before, and I’ve never read Dr Zhivago.

    In terms of SF/Fantasy (I’ll just whisper LOTR and Gormenghast in your ears), but there are many great novels in the Fantasy Masterworks and SF Masterworks series (F for A was in that series). Also Iain M Banks Culture series are classic in scope but more modern.

    Tell you what, I’m happy to readalong with your SF/Fantasy picks, as I don’t read much of that at the moment and I’d love to read just a little bit more again!

    • War and Peace intimidates me soooooo much. Someone once tried to make me feel rubbish by saying ‘you could never read that’ I think my response was a long the lines of ‘well I could I would just rather read ten other books instead’ but one day I might just try.

      LOTR I tried once and really didn’t like but Gormenghast has always been on my radar. I do quite fancy that.

      Oooh reading buddies, you might have to suggest some titles though lol.

      • I did the same as you gaskella so will have to re-read it at some point, I remember the story part of it being quite good though Simon!

  7. Great idea for a post! I’ve noticed I tend to steer away from books about grief. If the back says something about someone having cancer, or a loved one dying and a character coming to terms with their grief I tend to put it down. I don’t like to be depressed when I read. Shocked? Fine. Horrified? Sure. Grossed out? Ok by me. Put through emotional turmoil (ala Revolutionary Road)? I can handle it. Straight out grief from someone dying or about to die? No thank you. I recently read and reviewed Broken Colours by Michele Zackheim though, which deals with grief a lot (I didn’t realise this before I picked it up), and I really liked it. I guess that shows I might be missing out through “reading comfortably.”

    • There is a wonderful wonderful wonderful book by Stella Duffy called The State of Happiness which is about terminal illness and I urge everyone who says a book like that is not for them because its one of the most life affirming fictional tales I have read.

  8. Congrats on reading out of your comfort zone – sounds like it will be an interesting challenge for you. Truthfully, I tend to try and read outside of my usual bookish fare – but I draw the line at fantasty and sci-fi. Those books just don’t do the trick for me. And for quite some time, I tried not to read anything from the canon (except for what was assigned to me at school). I just wanted to read contemporary fiction and felt as if reading the canon books meant I was reading what I was supposed to be reading – pretty daft, eh? Well, luckily during grad school I came to my senses and now I can happily dive into a book by Austen or Conrad with pleasure. In fact, I only just picked up P&P 2 years ago and finally read it. And now I’m in The Brothers Karamazov read along and truly enjoying that behemoth of a book. Hopefully, I can broaden my own reading tastes to include more non-fiction. And maybe I shouldn’t turn my nose up at fantasy or sci-fi – after all I do love Vonnegut’s works (which I don’t think of as sci-fi). Hmmm. Great post, Simon – its got me thinking of what more I could read to diversify myself. Cheers!

    • The Brothers Karamazov readalong sounds good. I have veered away from readalong or challenges this year but maybe next year if someone takes on a harder/monster/out there book then for a readathon I will join in. Oooh I like the term behemoth.

  9. I’ve been thinking recently about what my comfort zone is recently and I don’t think that I have one; I love to read eclectically and read on a wide range of subject matters, as that’s my education on those experiences far removed from my own. Something you said recently irked me a little (I can’t remember if it was in your own comments or those somewhere else), you mentioned that you actually look down on people who reads something because it is controversial. I love reading things because they are controversial! It annoys me when people shy away from things because of the subject matter; Lolita is a common one for that and there’s another famous (modern) classic on paedophilia that I want to read, The End of Alice. I appreciate that enjoyment is subjective but I like subject matters that challenge me and if they are distasteful then more’s the better. although each to their own.

    Skin Lane sounds like something that I *would* enjoy and I’m sorry I didn’t read it for the discussion (I looked at the NTTVBG list when you first posted it and committed to three that instantly appealed/were available). It sounds, in a way, similar to a book I’ve just finished reading: Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman and both remind me of The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh.

    As for 18th Century literature, we covered Samuel Richardson and Fanny Burney yesterday and Gothic fiction in the past. Of course please, please, please proceed into the early 19th Century and read Jane Austen, who naturally proceeds those writing styles.

    Russian greats: start off gently with First Love by Ivan Turgenev.

    Science Fiction: you’ve been wanting to read some John Wyndham and I think he’s the best place to start.

    Fantasy: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, no question.

    • Thanks for your recommendations Claire, they will all go into one of my new (oh how dangerous Paperchase is) notebooks for recommendations that I have to look out for, though I do have a couple of your suggestions on the TBR – hoorah.

      Skin Lane I thought was quite amazing so I hope you do give it a whirl.

      Regarding contriversy, sorry my comments made you think that. What I meant – oh the danger of the written word when its out in the open hee hee – was not that I have an issue with people reading controversial books.

      I meant when people only pick controversial books (and those that come out instantly etc) to read as to get hits and just because they are controversial rather than because they are any good, if you know what I mean?

      I am happy to read a good controversial book now and again and Lolita has been on my radar a while too.

      (I answered this comment first as don’t like to irk or offend anyone eek!)

      • Ah, completely get what you mean now! No problem with that and completely agree. I only read what I want when I want to read it and do tend to move away from those overly-hyped books or those that are the biggest controversy for a while.

        Regarding what Fleur Fisher has said directly below, we all have our triggers and there are some books that simply don’t make comfortable reading for a myriad of reasons. I’m all for reading out of the box in my own life but I fully respect people who read only what’s in their comfort read because they think life is too short to do otherwise or because what they read may upset them.

  10. fleurfisher

    I like to think that my comfort zone is fairly wide, but I will step out of it if somebody whose judgement I trust makes a recommendation.

    But I must add that there are certain subject areas I take pains to avoid. Something in my past makes them too painful. But I recognise that as a personal thing and wouldn’t try to stop anyone else picking up a book that I wouldn’t choose to read.

    I hope that doesn’t sound too tragic. Things are fine now, I just wanted to make the point that life experiences affect reading choices.

    And sometimes it’s the wrong time for a book. I heard so much praise for The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey last year, but I didn’t because my mother is mentally frail and i wasn’t sure if I could cope with the emotion. But I don’t rule out reading it at a different point in life.

    • Yes its interesting how if a book that we wouldnt normally read gets a rave review from a blogger/friend/relative we trust then we are prepared to go out on a limb and give the book a whirl. Its part of what I like about the book blogging community.

      I get what you mean about hearing a lot about a book and a subject being close to your heart it can amke it either a must read or one you want to give some space.

  11. I think I’m like Claire in that I don’t really have a comfort zone–or rather, that I don’t have a “no-go” zone, or at least not a very large one as regards to subject matter. I like to read about almost anything—whether the topic is happy or sad, dark or light, whatever.

    That said, there are some subjects I tend to avoid because they’re so rarely done well. For example, I rarely read books about people with cancer because they’re often cloying and sentimental. But Helen Garner’s The Spare Room is one of the best books I’ve read this year. So I won’t rule other books about cancer out in the future, but I will wait for recommendations from a reliable source.

    When it comes to genre or time period, I do have some areas of discomfort, or maybe disinterest. I think I’d like to try reading some epic verse (which I’ve avoided since having to translate Virgil line by line in school), but I can’t work up any enthusiasm for it. Same with 18th-century essays and the works of Virginia Woolf–I hated reading them in school, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d appreciate them more now. But when there are so many books out there that I now I’d enjoy, I’m not sure I want to take the risk on something I’ve disliked in the past.

    • I like the idea of there being no ‘no go’ zone with reading. I hope I dont have one but then there are books I do sort of steer clear of and move slowly away from.

      I agree with you about The Spare Room that was an utterly remarkable books. Because of my own personal encounters and things with cancer I don’t avaoid it but if I think its being used to sell a book I just avoid that book completely.

      Virginia and me have an interesting relationship, I am going to see how I get on with her again in a few weeks.

  12. I’ve been posting about comfort zones quite a bit in the last couple of months and wondering how far out we should think about going (for example would you read a book with a sympathetic racist character, or a misogynist who was otherwise prortrayed as quite good?).

    That’s not really what you’re on about though so I’ll stick to topic 😉 I worked out that I’m quite eclectic (even if I haven’t read a certain kind of book I probably really want to) but I do have a comfort zone that excludes political biographies (and loosely factual fiction written by politicians), Christian fiction and self help books. In terms of subject, well there are some thing that make me uncomfortable – I’m not super comfortable reading about madness for example, although Clare Clark firmly pushed me out of that zone last year with ‘The Great Stink’. I try to avoid books that feature torture. I do feel like the subject matter thing is holding me back from some great books, but some pictures can’t be erased and right now I’m not totally sure I’m ready for them to be in my brain.

    You should totally consider redaing Anna Karenina with Danielle form ‘A Work in Progress’ if you want more Russian lit. I’ll be joining in and so will other bloggers, leisurely, none pressurised reading is planned. And agree with whoever above said you’d love Terry Pratchett. I feel pretty certain about that.

    • I will have to go and pop to your posts on comfort reading… I hope you didnt think I was stealing your idea’s – oh dear!

      Your first point is what i set out to talk about and then I got sidetracked in my own rambling way hahahaha. is Clare Clark the one who is now longlisted for the Ornage prize, I have that on the TBR and should really give it a read.

      I started Anna, I just didn’t get into it because of the endless season changing flowery bits which just annoyed me and I can’t skip or skim read parts of books it doesnt work for me.

      • Haha no not at all, they’re totally different kinds of posts.

        Yes she is long listed and I just yesterday finished Savage Lands (which despite all the terrible happenings was much more comfortable for me). Really, really good.

  13. Cindy

    I tend to make a distinction between comfort zone and not interested. In the ‘just not that into it’ category is chicklit; romance; autobiographies (memoirs are iffy but biographies are ok), self-help and espionage books. I’ve tried them plenty of times in the past, but there are just too many other books that DO interest me to try to drudge thru those genres.

    few things fall out of my comfort zone. personal heath injustices what I call “we’re right and you’re wrong’ books are 2 types that come to mind. the first hits just way too close to home and the latter gives me agita. I don’t mind reading a book that leaves me unsettled. Geek Love and The Mosquito Coast come to mind.

    I read Skin Lane and liked it. I was the descriptions of trying on the unlined fur coat that creaped me out the most! It’s a mental thing, but there is a big difference between leather and fur (just my humble opinion). Oh, and I didn’t necessarily think that there was a history of abuse, rather maybe something like punishment or admonishment for masterbation maybe? it was the instructions to keep his arms down by his sides (away from himself) that triggered that thought.

    as for S/F, I don’t think you could go wrong with Jasper Fforde. Although China Mieville is a new fav for me. The Sherriff of Yrnameer by Rubens is funny. Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars is just realistic enough to have me mentally preparing for a zombie war!

    good luck with your new tasks!

    • I think I aimed to discuss evil plots and characters and then went off into genres which was not my intention. I do type like I write though and I go off on random sort of linked tangents as I go. Ha,

      Thank you for reading along with Skin Lane I have appreciated all those who have joined in with the NTTVBG choices and a BIG thanks for some wonderful recommends!

  14. Personally, I don’t really have any subject matter that is strictly off-limits, apart from anything with zombies in (bar Terry Pratchett, who has a distinctly unique take on zombies).

    I think it is really important to stretch myself, and some of my favourite books have been the books I have been most ambivalent about before reading them.

    I would also recommend Terry Pratchett for fantasy reading, as you might have guessed.

    • I havent read a book with zombies in I don’t think… Oh no I have actually, one of Paul Magrs books has zombies in and they are brilliant! It’s a greta twist in one of the tales. I would recommend anyone giving his books a try if you think you dont like sci fi and fantasy/horror. They are ace!

  15. Interesting post. While I try to broaden my reading I think I still end up within my comfort zone more often than I would like. I love blogging because I find so many new books and I have been pushing myself more and more. And I have loved everything (almost) that I’ve tried.

    For my a main ‘outside my comfort zone’ type of books was classics. Almost any classics pre 1900. Also, poetry and plays, mystery, and sci-fi. It is so much fun venturing out.

    • Hahaha loving almost everything is a good start isnt it Amy hee hee. I have tried lots and lots more books that I wouldn’t have even thought to try without meeting and reading some wonderful blogs.

      Poetry is one of my biggest fears, I always think I won’t get it so will be testing myself with that very, very soon.

  16. I doubt there is any reader who honestly doesn’t steer clear of certain book categories but it doesn’t hurt to dip into them every once in a while just to broaden horizons. I don’t really read crime/police novels because I feel they tend toward gratuitous violence but I’m sure that I could get recommendations on some good choices for me. Just as you will find the right recommendations in the categories you are wary of.

    And might I recommend dipping your toes with some Russian period fiction first which will get you used to the Russian sensibility before you jump into the genre. I would try R.N. Morris’ A Gentle Axe and either Boris Akunin’s Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog or The Winter Queen first. Then I would definitely suggest The Brothers Karamazov.

    I don’t read much sci-fi either and am hit or miss on fantasy but there are some good books that kind of straddle the fence — like Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett. You might also like Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan — it reminds me a bit of The Girl With Glass Feet as it’s a magical realism one (and I believe it’s in your TBR stacks!). And Un Lun Dun by China Mieville is a good fantasy for word/book lovers (though it’s YA and I don’t know if you will try that).

    Okay – let me stop now and maybe think a bit more.

    • I agree Kristen I think that if we are all honest there are certain books that we just don’t tend to gel too well with or indeed avoid. (Poetry and fantasy in this house – on in the Converted Ones case books full stop).

      Wonderful list of recommendatiosn I now have oddles more books to look forward to in the future. Feel free to continue any time.

  17. I think my comfort zone changes slightly from time to time, but what stops me up is cruelty (all and various kinds). I did some non-fiction reading in 2007 about war/genocide and that intensified the difficulty that I had approaching these themes in fiction. But I kinda forced myself into Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy earlier this year and it was so amazing that I was reminded that I shouldn’t avoid such things. I hope to do some more reading on these subjects before I lose the momentum Barker’s writing afforded me!

    • Genocide would be a subject that I think I would find incredibly difficult to read but if I came across it in a book then I would continue it has to be said.

      I have been meaning to read Pat Barker, Granny Savideg Reads has just done her for a book group and I got the impression she wasn’t too keen.

  18. I used to boast that I could read anything, and I guess that is still true in the literal sense, but I have come to pay more attention to my comfort zone. If every character in the book is disgusting or cruel, I ask myself why I am spending time with them.

    Try the Russians. You will find the author or authors you truly enjoy, so if the first one doesn’t work out, try another. Recommended: Tolstoy, Anna Karenina; Turgenev, Fathers and Sons; Checkov, anything.

    • Hahaha I know what you mean about cruel characters or dispicable ones, I am always left impressed though if an author makes you start to like teh most awful characters despite yourself.

  19. I meant to comment about Skin Lane earlier but didn’t get around to it. What a wonderful book. I think I may be the only one in the U.S. who’s read it, but I loved it.

    I have similar problems with my book club. We’ve been together for almost 20 years, but finding a book everyone will agree to read is a challenge. There are several people who want only “happy” books. I like to think that I’ll give just about anything a go, and I will make an attempt to read every book club suggestion. I do finish most of them though the “chick-lit” stuff can be a challenge for me.

    I’d like to challenge you to read Octavia Butler’s Kindred. It’s Science Fiction, involves time travel. It’s also a wonderful read.

    • Oh CB I am so pleased that you enjoyed Skin Lane its great isnt it. Would have been lovely to have you at the discussion but am just glad it got another reader and another great fan.

      Book groups do seem to be a bonus and a curse for reading outside your comfort zone, it seems to depend on the group mentality!

      I will be reading Fledgling by Olivia E Butler in a couple of weeks so I might then turn to Kindred.

  20. It’s easy to get stuck a comfort zone and I need to periodically access my reading and make a conscious effort to venture out of the zone. My upcoming Angela Carter read is an example… so was Kindred that C.B. James mentioned above. Great post!

  21. Eva

    I’m reading more 18th century lit this year, and so far I’m enjoying it far more than I expected! 🙂

    And I’m delighted to see that you’re going to read more Russians this year. I lurve the Russians, and they’re not all sad and serious at all, whatever the stereotypes.

    Since I started blogging, I’ve been reading more and more widely, and pushing myself to try things outside of my comfort zones. Which is marvelous, but this year I want to read more deeply than broadly, so I’ve returned to many of my favourite authors/genres/styles. But I still love to challenge myself, and I’m definitely still trying out books that I’m not sure I’ll love.

    For me, if a book is about a disturbing subject matter, I’ll read it as long as it’s not a) exploitative (I read a horror short story anthology last year w/ some lurid, voyeuristic rape scenes that were simply not ok w/ me) or b) emotionally manipulative (like, an author isn’t that good of a writer, so he throws in cancer/child abuse/etc. to the story to make it seem like he can write movingly). There are certain topics that I have to mentally prepare myself for (like genocide), but if a book blogger I trust highly recommends a novel, I’ll read it even though the plot summary has me nervous.

    I definitely don’t read only happy books, as evidenced by how I keep reaching for Henry James this year! lol Also, since reading international authors is a priority to me, it’s interesting how many of those books have a darker feel to them. I’m not sure if it’s the US market influencing which international books get translated/published, but they definitely seem more ‘literary’ and challenging in general. Mysteries seem to be the biggest exception to that; while it’s difficult for me to find fantasy/chick lit/historical fiction from non-US/UK/Canada/Australia (I think you get my point) authors, mystery stuff is broader. Even then, though, most international mysteries have more of a noir/gritty feel to them than I’d ideally like.

    I think I’ve rambled on enough! But you always come up with the most marvelous discussion topics Simon. 🙂

    • There are definitley a lot of stereotypes about the russians, I think they are made to sound daunting. I did try Anna K but got a bit bored with all the descriptions of fields endlessly.

      Agree 100% with the exploitative factor Eva, who do I not think of these marvellous points at the time!?

  22. Nothing wrong with that comfort zone, I say, as long as you take the occasional vacation. Much as in real life.

    Have had similar feelings as you about the Russian lit thing but have to tell you that I am loooving The Brothers Karamazov for Bellezza’s shared read. Where I expected heavy, it sings along light as air. Where I expected ultra serious, it makes me laugh out loud. Playful, ingenious. Really recommend.

    • I like the idea of an occasional vacation out into the wild side. Yes that is very like real life indeed.

      It definitely seems I am missing a trick with the Russians all the reports on them sound marvellous!

  23. Based on your post I think I’ll read Skin Lane. The post topic is an interesting one. I think the reader has to make a distinction between the real and fictional worlds — reading a novel about a pedophile (Lolita) in no way implies the support of pedophilia! One of my favorite books is Crime and Punishment; the murder is reprehensible, nevertheless, I read this book avidly, and felt a deep compassion for the murderer. Another book that comes to my mind in this discussion, The Shrine at Altamira by John L’Heureux. In this novel, a father commits an inexplicable and unforgivable act of violence. It is one of the most moving and compassionate books I have read.

    • Oh do read Skin Lane and once you have please, please, please let me know your thoughts about it afterwards.

      I have a lovely copy of Crime and Punishment that The Converted One got me ages ago. Maybe thats what I should read next!?! (Maybe after sneaking a few quick reads in first!)

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