Monday, October 4, 2021

Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

As far as I can tell from going back through my archives, this is a new one! This week we're talking about our bookish pet peeves. Here are ten of mine!

1. Books that are only available in hard copy
The only books I intentionally read in hard copy nowadays are those with a major visual component, like graphic novels. Otherwise it's very hard for me to find time to sit down and read a print book. Most of my reading is done via audiobook while I'm doing tasks around the house, and the rest is via ebook, which I can read on my phone standing in line at the store or at night on my backlit Kindle screen under the covers where it won't wake the baby. So if I want to read something but it's not available in digital formats, I need to really want to read it.

2. Books that would have been fantastic if they'd just been edited a little better
It's so frustrating when I read a book and think, "This would be fantastic if it weren't for [the constant typos / the inconsistent details / that one plot line that didn't make any sense]." As someone who's done developmental editing as well as proofreading, it's clear to me when a little more attention from a careful editor could have made the book a 5-star read but that just didn't happen.

3. Characters who make irrational or out-of-character decisions to move the plot along
Characters don't have to make the decisions that I would have made, but I need to understand why they're making the decisions they are. I get annoyed when characters suddenly choose to do something that's convenient for the plot but has no rational explanation or is completely at odds with the person we know them to be up to that point.

4. Children whose maturation is wildly out of sync with their supposed age
Look, I have a developmentally delayed kid, and I get that not all kids develop at the same rate, but if a kid is acting way younger or older than their age, I expect it to be commented on. To take one example (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry), why is a seemingly average 2-year-old being propped up with pillows and spoonfed and then called "exceptionally verbal" when at 3 years she's speaking single words? Or maybe there's a kid whose speech patterns and behavior suggest they're in elementary school, and then after only a few years have passed in the story they're celebrating their 18th birthday. In this kind of situation I spend way too much time flipping back, trying to figure out if I missed something.

5. Excessive focus on a character's identity or difference
I am all for character diversity, and I also think there's a place for books that are specifically meant to teach about certain identities or experiences. I get annoyed when these attributes are slapped on characters in lieu of giving them a personality or when the book dwells unnecessarily on how unusual this aspect of the person is. Go read Writing With Color and get yourself some sensitivity readers!

6. Hints about an epic plot twist that never materializes
This has happened to me multiple times now! The author drops hints here and there that all seem to point to a potential twist or plot resolution, and I get excited when I think I've figured it out, and then... nothing. The plot is predictable, the resolution is a trope, and none of the hints are ever explained. So annoying!

7. Nonfiction authors who make assumptions about their readers
I know Sheryl Sandberg gets a lot of crap for Lean In, but I personally appreciated how explicitly she laid out the narrow audience her book was for. It's much more frustrating to me when a career or self-help book is purportedly for "everyone" but is actually addressed to people who share a multitude of characteristics with the author. Or the many parenting books that assume throughout that the reader is a woman who is married to a man and who physically birthed the child herself, even if they include a throwaway sentence about how "dads can get something out of the book too"!

8. Plot twists that I figure out hundreds of pages before the characters do
I enjoy the feeling of putting together the pieces and guessing what's going to happen, but I prefer to figure it out just a few steps ahead of the characters. If I've figured out a key plot twist early on and then I have to wait for the entire rest of the book for everyone else to catch on, I spend the whole time going, "Why hasn't anyone figured this out yet? Is the reader supposed to know something the characters don't or did I just figure this out really early? Am I wrong? [Usually not.] Can we hurry up and get to the reveal already?"

9. Quotations inserted as full sentences without a clear source (except for an endnote)
This is a major pet peeve of mine with nonfiction books. Rather than saying "As so-and-so said" or "According to such-and-such article" some authors will just put entire sentences in quotation marks in the middle of their writing with no context except for a footnote or endnote that you have to stop and look up. Either invite the other writers into conversation with your text by referencing them by name, or put more effort into synthesizing their ideas into your own thesis, even if that means not directly quoting the great way they expressed an idea.

10. Switching between past and present tense without a clear reason
Some books intentionally have alternating timelines that are told with different verb tenses, which isn't my favorite, but it can work fine. But sometimes this fluidity of tenses serves no clear purpose and leads to confusion, and sometimes (along the lines of #2 above) verb tenses will even switch mid-sentence because the author and the editor(s) weren't paying close enough attention. It's so distracting!

What are some of your bookish pet peeves?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sabriel
Five years ago I was reading: All Creatures Great and Small, Adoption Parenting, and The Guns of August
Ten years ago I was reading: Global Wording

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