Saturday, January 16, 2010

Speed Bump Books

I'm presently in the Capitol Skyline hotel in Washington, D.C. and I'm about to log off the computer and read a book.

I brought two books with me because I don't own a e-reader and so can't take along an entire library the way Kindle owners (you know who you are) can do.  Please feel free to leave a comment about how wonderful your e-book reader is for this very reason: ease of travel.

Okay, so I was packing in a rush yesterday morning and had time to grab just two books:  The Element of Fire by Martha Wells, which I've had on my bedside table for so long I don't remember who recommended it or why, and Arm Candy by Jo Leigh, which Robin/Janet recommended over on Dear Author, in part because there's a wonderful gender-role switch with the heroine being the high-powered businessperson in need of a superficially appropriate companion for a business function and the hero volunteering for the job.

I know I'm going to enjoy both books.  Element of Fire is a fantasy; I like fantasies.  Arm Candy is a Harlequin Blaze; I like that line.  I rather thought I would want to start Element of Fire first because I worried Arm Candy would be an Espresso Book and I really needed a good night's sleep.  But when I picked up Element of Fire and read the blurb on the back cover, I put it down and started Arm Candy instead.

Why?  Because Element of Fire is a speed bump book for me: a book that generates a mental barrier I have to "get over" in order to read.  The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner was a speed bump book.  I enjoyed it (perhaps not as much as others have) once I got started, but it sat around a long time before I cracked it open.

I can identify some possible reasons why some books will have speed bumps and others won't.  Whether I know the author is an obvious one: once I know an author's style, I'm much more likely to dive into another of her books.  But, interestingly, a DNF can reset that reason; after a DNF, the next book I have by the same author may have a speed bump.

Subgenre is an obvious reason.  I'm not an automatic reader of paranormals, fantasies, sci-fi romances, or romantic suspense books.  I've read great books in all those sub-genres, but any given book in a sub-genre may have a speed bump.

Forgetting why I got the book in the first place.  It may not be helping Element of Fire, for example, that I can't recall why it was recommended.

Apparent difficulty in getting a book started.  Some books just seem like they'll be harder to read -- maybe because there's more disbelief to be suspended, or because the writing is denser, or the book seems long.  (A 500-page Nora Roberts may not seem like a long book the way a 300-page novel by a new author might.)

Finally, my fear that I won't finish a book is a definite speed bump.  I can't know in advance which book will evoke this feeling, but it's an unpleasant sensation even about a book I know I wanted to read.  (Which prompts the question: what fuels a fear that I won't finish a book?  But that'll have to be the subject of its own post!)

Here's the crazy part:  I'm going to read Element of Fire (just not today) and I'm going to like it, maybe even love it.  But after I do, I'll still discover speed bumps when picking among my TBR piles.  Sometimes a speed bump book reveals itself to be a book I adore and can't wait to rave about.  Not even that miracle removes speed bumps from other books in my TBR.


  1. I also have 'Arm Candy' in my TBR, but in ebook form. I purchased it as part of the Dear Author blogger bundle. I don't like reading books on the PC but I'll make the odd exception for a Harlequin as they're short.

    Speed bump books...I guess you could say the books I'm reading for my self-imposed 'Stretch Yourself Challenge' are speed bump books. They're all in genres I don't usually read. Reading 'Moon Called' by Patricia Briggs was definitely outside my usual comfort zone, as was 'Laid Bare' by Lauren Dane. I enjoyed both novels, however, and have since read more books by those authors.

    Enjoy your long weekend!

  2. Yes, I love my Kindle! And so does my dh...he no longer has to carry an entire suitcase full of books every time we travel. There's no way I could go away for more than a day with only two books. What if I didn't like them?

  3. Sarah --

    Definitely a shift in genres almost always causes a speed bump for me. Two of the books I picked for your Stretch Yourself Challenge are already DNFs for me, simply because I'm a lazy reader and didn't feel like putting in the work to finish a Dickens novel and Brideshead Revisited when there were juicier romances to be had. I'll "man up" this year and get them done.

    Sharyn -- Here's the odd thing. I suspect if I had a lot of books loaded into the Kindle, that would increase the speed bump factor for all of them. Maybe I'm just a Luddite when it comes to e-books, but I worry that once they're all loaded into a machine like that, I'll ignore the step-sisters and just re-read the Cinderella books over and over. Well, that's what I'd do if it was anything like my iPod!!

    But, in view of my post on this subject, I can't argue with the proposition that when you travel with the Kindle, you have a lot more books to pick from. :-)

    Here's my question -- are there books on your Kindle that you've not read and they've been there for a long time? Kindle-orphans, if you will?

  4. Not a kindle person, but the books are organised into monthly folders so I can stay abreast of what I am up to and don't forget to read any.
    If it a big book buying month, then there is a read folder.. lol


  5. the books on the computer that is. doh

  6. Edie -- I gather Kindle's not having folders is a problem (from something Jessica at RRR tweeted the other day). I asked Diana Coleman (@Saschakeet on Twitter) about the issue of "orphan books" on Kindle. She said that she got a bunch of freebies that she's likely to mass delete (to make more room!) as they're now "what was I thinking" books.

    Not that this was meant to be a post about why I don't want a Kindle (sorry, Sharyn!) but one of the reasons is that I worry about "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" inclinations to ignore books that are otherwise speed bump books.

    Isn't this why Keishon at has TBR challenges? To get people to read outside their comfort zone? (I don't participate because either all my books are TBRs, or the only ones that qualify as TBRs are speed bump books slowly "maturing" into DNR status!) (Oh, and because I'm lazy.)

    So, if Jessica gets her wish, and Kindle gets folders, maybe one will be the TBR folder, and books that have been on the Kindle longer than, say, 60 days will be moved to the TBR folder automatically.


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