Changing Tastes – How Fickle are we as readers?

So I recently turned 30 and although I’m very much looking forward to my 30’s I have been very introspective about how much I’ve changed over the past 10 yrs or so. One area that I’ve noticed a particular change in over the years is my reading tastes. Looking back over my shelves they are full of the fantasy, historical fiction and YA novels that I used to devour as I went through university and just after. There are also the countless classics which are souvenirs of my time studying English literature. I look over at the current books in my ‘to read’ pile and they couldn’t be more different. Though I have to admit that there are the final books in some of the series that I started years ago, (the final Skullduggery Pleasant book by Derek Landy being one example of this), the rest of the pile consists of crime books of all shapes and sizes, psychological thrillers, self help books, and even the occasional chick lit offering. Non of the things I am now reading are things that I would have avidly avoided in the past and equally I still enjoy returning to my old tastes from time to time but somewhere along the line my focus seems to have shifted from the sheer escapism of wanting to get out of the here and now to wanting to read things which explore and discover aspects of the world in which I exist.

It may be a side effect of growing up; maybe the real world feels more definite and unavoidable to me so that I feel like I need to learn more about ways to navigate it rather than to simply avoid it in the short term. Whatever the reason it got me wondering about all of our tastes as readers and how much they morph and change as we go through our lives, perhaps affected by the experiences we have had or the company we keep. Are we all to some extent fundamentally disloyal as readers?

As I said above there are some series that I still follow having discovered them years ago and will look forward to reading them as much as anything else left on my night stand but others have not faired so well. As I was growing up and through my early 20’s I was addicted to everything that Bernard Cornwell had ever read I became so familiar with his style that I could read his books in half the time it took me to read others but somewhere along the line without me realising it something changed. I remember one day spotting a new Bernard Cornwell hardback on a shelf and being vaguely surprised that I hadn’t known that it was coming out but when I looked in the front I was surprised to discover that not only had I not known that this particular novel was due to be published but several others had also been published since I had read what I thought to be his most recent offering. I bought the new offering but found when I get it home that I would rather be reading other things. Somehow my favourite author had ceased to hold the same magic for me and I knew that it was a reflection on me and how I has changed than in his work.

At heart we may all be destined to become disloyal readers. As the way we see the world changes the amount we enjoy something will surely change too.

So what does that mean for us as writers? Does it mean that we should try and move and change what we write to keep people interested or should we stick to our own style and hope that as our old readers move on to something else that others will then find it? To some extent I think that it has to be the later since the writer as much as the reader if affected by what they’ve seen and experienced as they move through life. What we write today will be completely different to what we will write 10 years from now and what we would have written 10 years ago, we may be the same person but he will have gone through different things which will colour our writing as much as it will out readers tastes.

So I guess that who we are as readers and writers will always be fluid and we all just have to embrace and enjoy whatever it is that we happen to be enjoying reading right now.


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