If I had a dollar for every time I picked up a paperback only to realize I already read that book, I’d be a rich woman. It’s not that I’ve read a lot of books. It’s just that I like what I like.
I know I’m not alone in this. My mom has this problem. Only, unlike me, she doesn’t realize it until she’s like halfway through the book.
All readers are chasing a very specific high. We’re all trying to get the same dopamine rush we got when we read that one perfect book that one time.
So you read all the books written by the author of that one book. And then you read books that Goodreads users recommend. You check and see what Amazon says readers bought in addition to that one perfect book. You ask your local librarian and use the NoveList Plus database to find more.
But at the end of the day, you just can’t find another perfect book. What is a reader to do?
I’ve Already Read That Book. Now What?
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect book. There is only a book that we read at the right time in the right frame of mind.
Sometimes books find us (or we find them) when we need them most, and that’s why they mean so much. The same is true of records and movies. Stuff like that can hit hard at very specific times in our lives, and we wind up chasing that high for a very long time.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t other good stuff out there. You just have to look for books for the person you are in that very moment, because you aren’t the same person you were when you found that one perfect story.
This is a hard lesson to learn, admittedly.
And there are also instances where you just read a book by an author that you thought you’d never read before only to find that you have read it, but the cover has changed in the new edition so it looked like a brand new book.
This is not the only issue to plague readers.
Other Reader Problems
There are some very specific obstacles that I believe are unique to readers. Publishing is a weird industry, and more than any other industry, it’s one that encourages prolific production from the creator.
(At least, that’s the case if you’re indie.)
And this is largely because readers read. Like, they really read. I see you with your 150 books a year reading goal, you reader you.
And that sort of dedication to hallucinating while staring at the tattooed flesh of dead trees is what breeds this whole host of problems.
So with that, let’s take a look at other reader problems besides the ol’ “I’ve already read that book.”
001: This reminds me of a book I read 20 years ago, but can’t remember what it was.
This is something that plagues me daily.
I read so much more when I was younger and didn’t have a full-time job or Netflix or brain chemicals that made it impossible to focus on reading. And I made my way through the fantasy section of the library like nobody’s business.
So, occasionally I’ll remember a scene from a particular book, but I won’t be able to remember what the book was or who wrote it. I’ll type everything I remember into Google, and I’ll get tons of recommendations, but based on the publication date, I can tell they aren’t right.
Basically, we all need a time machine that takes us back to the library shelf we were at the moment we picked up a specific book so we can go back now as adults to re-read that book and see why that one little scene has stuck with us for so freakin’ long.
002: I hate the new cover styles but all the old books are marked up too high at used book stores.
Round about the time the whole teen dystopia craze hit the market, book covers took a dive. At least, that’s when I noticed.
Everything became way more epic-looking, or grittier. And that works for epic and gritty stories.
But some stories are about the sort of adventure where friendship and teamwork are more important, and where being soft and vulnerable matters more than strength or violence. And all the covers that really conveyed that were taken away.
Also, I’m a sucker for the pulpy-looking covers of sci-fi and fantasy novels. And I won’t say no to a highly stylized romance novel cover with a hero cradling a heroine while their hair blows in the wind.
I am a huge fan of that old school paperback aesthetic.
003: No one has read this and I have no one to talk to about this book.
When you like very niche-specific tropes and plots, you lead a lonely life.
For the most part, I never had anyone to talk to about books growing up. All my friends mostly read the bestseller stuff that everyone reads, and never dove down into the depths of weirdness that I plumbed.
Now that I have more writerly friends, I can talk about some stuff. And social media has made it easier to find your people. Though, if we’re being real. Bookstagram and BookTok are really just full of people recommending the same 10 bestsellers and never mentioning something that might make their stats tank.
004: I rarely read brand new books and social media is full of spoilers.
I was born with a TBR pile longer than the amount of years I will have on this planet. So I’m trying to read as much as possible when I can. But the thing is, new books keep coming out and getting added to my TBR.
This means that I spend a lot of time reading books that came out years ago, if not decades ago. And I’m mostly fine with that.
UNTIL I ACCIDENTALLY READ A TON OF SPOILERS FOR A NEW BOOK THAT I PUT ON THE LIST BUT WILL NOT GET TO FOR A WHILE.
It feels like if you can’t keep up with the book hype machine, you’re out of the book reading game. But no one can really afford to buy all the new books, can they?
005: I can’t post about books on social media because I don’t do the materialistic book culture stuff.
Yeah. So, speaking of nobody being able to afford to buy all the new books…
I love the look of a pretty Bookstagram account. But when all I see are a ton of hardcover books on perfectly decorated shelves with little tchotchkes from places like West Elm and Anthropology, I know that person isn’t a reader of the people.
I like eBooks and library books and used paperbacks. And I know that doesn’t bring in the Instagram likes. For the most part, that’s fine.
But I hate feeling like I don’t belong to reader culture because I can’t participate in an aesthetic.
006: This trope is so played out and it’s all publishing houses are pushing right now.
I read a lot of indie stuff, so I don’t have to exclusively choke down what major publishing houses and tastemakers think we want.
I know I’m not alone in this. And I know this is one reason why you’re so tired of vampires and zombies. I know this is why you can’t stomach another YA dystopian novel.
Read indie, and read writers of other cultures. There are tons more stories out there. And they’re rad.
007: I am crying hysterically because the shit publishers put money behind makes no sense and there is good stuff I’ll never know about because it doesn’t get the marketing push it deserves.
I hate seeing what publishers will push. And to be clear: Publishers aren’t gatekeepers. That’s elitist bullshit. Publishers are salespeople. They push stuff they know they can sell.
So the reason they won’t pick up quiet cozy mysteries that take place in a hacienda in Northern Mexico is because they don’t know how to sell it.
They do know how to sell stuff written by people and for people like them. That’s why they love to give contracts to rich white kids from the east coast who went to the right schools and write in that very middle class protestant way.
And those are the authors and books that get the marketing push. Those are the stories that fit a very specific style and format, and they are deemed to be the stories worth sharing simply because they appeal to people who sell them.
It doesn’t mean those stories are always better, and it doesn’t mean that is the only way to tell a story. It just means that particular way of telling stories is all those people know.
But I’ll get off my soap box now.
008: I forgot to charge my eReader and I have to find out what happens!
If I had a dollar for every time I had to finish a book while my Kindle was plugged into the wall, I’d have just as many dollars as I’d have from realizing I’ve already read that book.
What Your Reader Problem?
What is your biggest problem as a reader? Do you struggle to find books you’ve read a long time ago? Have you picked up a book only to find that you’ve already read it?
Be real with me. How irritated are you by the stories that get the marketing push.