What to read for fun (Part 2 of 2): The Book Matrix

crystals in light

If you read my last post, you'll know that for whatever reason, I do not feel compelled to read "critically-acclaimed literary fiction" right now. For the most part, at this moment, I want to enjoy reading without thinking very much about it.

Can I do that? I write literary fiction. Am I allowed to read for pleasure?

YES! As it turns out, there's lots of other stuff to read out there. Forget about the New York Times Book Review - check out Shoppers Drug Mart, people! I have been pulling things out randomly and trying everything I can get my hands on: genre fiction, YA fiction, old, new, classics, series, dog-eared books I find at garage sales.

Reading widely and out of my snobbery zone has been very educational. And just because my mind works this way: I began to organize my findings and plot them on a graph so I could be discerning, not judgmental, about my reading tastes.

I call this graph my Book Matrix. You can make yourself one, too!

The-Book-Matrix

The Y-axis runs on a scale from fun and compelling to drudgery. The X-axis runs from canned and derivative to spectacular and original.

The books that fall in the bottom right quadrant are very well-written, but not easy and fun to read. (I usually hang out in this quadrant all the time, but I just can't read those books right now.)

The books in the top left quadrant are fun for me to read, but kind of derivative or clichéd. I go there sometimes, for reasons I explained in Part 1 of this post, and in my piece on bedtime reading. Some of my other (non-)guilty pleasure writers are: Maeve Binchy, Patrick Rothfuss, Lev Grossman, Minette Walters, and Sophie Kinsella.

Books in the bottom left quadrant are those I don't find original OR compelling. Sigh. Pass.

But then there are books that are fun to read AND well-written! This is the sweet, most special quadrant. I am always looking for something to read that fits in here. This is the gold.

Well written and fun to read books on my Book Matrix include books by these writers:

John Green
Edward St. Aubain
David Sedaris
Cheryl Strayed
Daniel Handler
Jaclyn Moriarty
Sue Townsend
Susan Orlean
Monica Ali

Try plotting your favourite books on your own Book Matrix, and see what you come up with. It will be different for everyone, of course. How can you possibly quantify "fun" or "drudgery"? That's so personal!

That's exactly what makes the Book Matrix so wonderful. You can make it yours. Unapologetically.

After you make your Book Matrix, you get to be picky about your reading. If you find yourself dragging through a book you "should" read, like for a book club or an online reading challenge, you don't have to finish it. Your Book Matrix gives you a good reason to skip it!

And if you feel compelled to read a book that your inner book snob finds fault with, you can tell her that you're testing it for your Book Matrix — and read on!

Here's to your reading discernment and enjoyment.

xo,

Sarah Selecky

     


Writing Retreat at The Lemon Tree House.
In the Spotlight: Mary Nicholson

7 comments

Sonal Champsee

Books like these are what I call my literary comfort food. Maeve Binchy is probably my number one reading guilty pleasure. She's warm and cosy. For me, she's a really creamy bowl of Mac and Cheese.
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I would totally recommend two of Polly Horvath's middle-grade books, My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon!
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Great list, thanks! There are some new discoveries on there for me. My fun and well written book authors include many that you listed, plus, Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, Neil Gaiman, and from the world of lit comics Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Michael Rabagliati :)
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So excited to see Jaclyn Moriarty on your list. The Year of Secret Assignments remains one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Thanks for this post.
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My mac and cheese is Elizabeth Berg. :)
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I love the idea of literary comfort food. So great! My creamy mac and cheese author is Louise Penny (with Maeve Binchy a close second). I'm not a mystery reader usually, but she's my non-guilty pleasure.
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Love this! I have been a recovering "I always finish every book I start" reader for the past few years. Thank you so much for this matrix. It will now give me a useful diagnostic for putting a book down. What a gift. I find Alexander McCall Smith to be in my comfort matrix. He often has lovely insights about humanity that are effortless and reassuring to read. When I worked in a bookstore at one point, this was seen as shameful. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in enjoying comfort books after all!
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