Is there such a thing as a critical mass of books read?

At least read, as it were, critically?

Interesting post from Tobias Buckell, about the way that after you’ve read a vast number of books, your perceptions of what’s new and exciting, or even just plain fun and competent, necessarily change.

I think I disagree that this happens because you read a certain vast number of books. But that’s not actually what Buckell means, either, because he’s talking about people who read critically — in particular, book bloggers.

And there I think he’s hit, not the nail, necessarily, but a nail on its head.

“You’ve read so much that what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading) is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change. Due to subjectivity being what it is, many writers can mistake what’s happening and view it as the books getting worse, not their own aesthetic changing. Two things can happen. One, despair at what they perceive is the dying of quality. … Secondly … they begin to gravitate toward something that feels new to them. They seek out ‘artist’s artists’ and are not happy when those voices aren’t welcomed by the mainstream, because these are stories aimed at people who’ve simply consumed a terrific amount of fiction to be able to enjoy the work.”

I think I have seen this happen with some book bloggers. Not exactly this, necessarily, but a change where specific critical criteria are applied to books, when those criteria don’t necessarily seem justly applicable. It’s an interesting point, though on the other hand, it may not be very different from saying that, hey, tastes do change. And we knew that already, of course. So perhaps this isn’t anything new or unexpected after all.

But I expect we will always have new unjaded book reviewers opening up shop, so I don’t suppose we’ll ever lack for book bloggers who can point the way enthusiastically toward books they genuinely love. Which on the one hand, yay! And on the other, my God, those people are dangerous. Do you KNOW how huge my TBR pile is now?

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1 thought on “Is there such a thing as a critical mass of books read?”

  1. I seem to recall that the Book Smugglers referred to something as done to death in YA — a circus/carnival setting? — that you didn’t recall ever seeing before.

    So yeah, I think this is probably valid. If I were a book blogger, that transition point is probably when it would stop being fun and I’d quit.

    Unless I was reviewing nonfiction, come to think of it — which for me would presumably mean history books. In that case, I don’t think the same sort of situation exists: in fact, it helps to have read a lot of the stuff so that you can pick up on when someone is putting up a good front but doesn’t really understand how to do it.

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