Oxford

The Common Reader Effect

I turned 30 yesterday (sorry, I’m telling everyone) and it’s made me both slightly melancholic (I’m at my happiest while sad…) and introspective.

Which obviously meant I began to think about how my reading has changed over the years that I’ve consumed books almost obsessively.

Which lead me to The Common Reader Effect.

The Common Reader Effect (I’ve no idea if this exists already, I was too lazy to Google) is the effect of vast book consumption has on a person’s enjoyment of types of literature. It’s named after A Common Reader by Alan Bennett, which I’m assuming you’ve read and if not you should. It’s a short story about the Queen becoming a devoted reader and neglecting her duties. The more the Queen reads the more she is able to appreciate more ‘complicated’ works of fiction. Books she read at the beginning of her journey, that she struggled through, are now a whole new place of wondrous discovery.

Which is also what has happened to me, minus being a Queen (or am I?*). The more I’ve read over the last five or six years the more my reading tastes have changed.

Take Dracula by Bram Stoker. I began to read it for University during a course on Horror, but never finished it – which in hindsight was a stupid educational decision. In May I decided I had to try reading it again and I loved it. I understood what I hadn’t before, themes popped out, I became excited for the story to unfold where previously it all seemed a bit slow.

It’s made for glorious reading experiences, I get to experience quick emotional payoff with YA and general fiction, and get longer intellectual payoff from Literary Fiction and Classics. It’s great.

Has this happened to you?
How has your reading taste changed over your years of reading?

* I’m not.

 

15 thoughts on “The Common Reader Effect

  1. Oh, gosh, this is such a good question, and I don’t even hardly know the answer to it. My reading has changed since I’ve started blogging, for sure, but I don’t know that I’d definitely say my reading has deepened or gotten better? It’s gotten wider. I read more widely now, and that’s been amazing, and I think I read more nonfiction, and I definitely read more diversely, which is great.

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  2. Wishing you a very Happy 30th Birthday, albeit a little belatedly! My reading tastes have changed so much over the years (probably too numerous to mention here). I’ve been reading quite a few 20th-century classics of late as I tend to find them more satisfying than much of the contemporary fiction being published these days. That’s not to say I’ve given up on new releases, but I’m definitely getting more choosy in my middle age. 🙂

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  3. This is really interesting! I hadn’t thought that much about this, but I think you’re right – the more you read, the easier it is to grasp the themes and issues being explored by a particular text. In terms of my own reading, I always think of Anna Karenina. I’ve read it three times in the past few years, and it was only on my third reading that I managed to get into the book at all, to appreciate the story and begin getting to grips with what Tolstoy was saying. At the time I assumed it was just the effect of ageing a little and my university literature classes, but now I wonder if maybe it’s also something to do to with reading more Russian literature and more of the English novels that inspired Tolstoy to write the novel. Definitely something to keep in mind for the future! 🙂

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  4. Belated happy birthday! Yes, it’s happened to me and I think in some ways it’ll be a continuous process. I doubt I would have read much if any literary fiction if I hadn’t started reading so much. I may have ‘got’ it but definitely wouldn’t have appreciated it so much, classics too. As for changes, aside from lit fic and classics, mystery. I don’t read much of it but what I do is the result of change. And romance – never read any of it before this blogging stage of reading.

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  5. I’ve also experienced this! I still enjoy reading YA books but find I enjoy books I wouldn’t have enjoyed books that I would have in high school. I remember I tried reading Golden Compass when I was in elementary school but didn’t actually enjoy reading it until I was a teenager. It’s interesting how our taste in books evolve as we grow older!

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    1. Isn’t it just! I’ve just started The Count of Monte Cristo, and I know for a fact if I’d tried to read it 5 years ago I would have given up at the first few pages.

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