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Jane Austen vs. Jane Eyre, and 4 Other Reading Confessions

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

We here at Book Riot are in full confession mode! Last week, Rebecca revealed her seven reading secrets and Kit exposed her literary shame. It must be something about spring and the need for cleansing and rebirth and yada yada yada. Anyhow, I’ve been meaning to get a few things off my chest for awhile, too. So, here are my deepest, darkest literary secrets…revealed!

5. Poetry makes me sleepy — As a diploma-carrying English major, and a life-long book nerd, yes, it’s a bit odd that I don’t read poetry. I never have. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve never found the right poem that’s “moved” me, like most poetry fans, but unless a poem’s set to the guitar stylings of one William Patrick Corgan, Jr., I’m skipping the verse. If that makes me a oafish non-literary chucklehead, so be it.

4. I can’t abide ARCs — This may be the least defensible and most irrational of my reading secrets. Despite the wonderful opportunity to read a much-anticipated novel a few months early, I never take Advanced Reading Copies. Here’s why: There’s something titillating about looking forward and counting down to publication day, about finally being able to buy the hardcover, about bringing it home, devouring it, and then admiring it in its place of honor on your shelf. RIGHT?! (Here’s another secret — I always buy copies of novels I read on my Nook and/or novels I borrowed. I’m OCD about collecting books. Who’s with me?)

3. I love his fiction, but I think Jonathan Franzen is insufferable — Just about every time I’ve read an interview (ebook are corroding values?! really?!) or seen him on television (“awkward” doesn’t even begin to describe him on Bill Maher), he’s seemed like an egotistical, elitist goon. This one is hard for me, because he was really good friends with David Foster Wallace, and I love David Foster Wallace, and David Foster Wallace, in interviews and on TV, is freakin’ awesome (and he f%#$ing nailed that commencement speech, didn’t he?). And but so, yes, one of my favorite writers is a jerk, but this is why we separate art from artist, right?

2. I get Jane Eyre and Jane Austen confused — This is inexcusable, I understand. One is fictional (and the eponymous title of one of the most-loved novels of all time) and one is real (and the author of some of the most-loved novels of all time). But I’ve gotten these two Janes confused in conversations more times than I can count (at one point, I may have actually claimed that Jane Austen wrote Jane Eyre.) It’s always embarrassing. And worse, it shows no signs of abating.

1. Sometimes, I read books so people will like me — Call it wanton insecurity (actually, please don’t), but I often let myself be talked into books I’d never read normally so the people who recommended those books will think I’m cool and open-minded. Cases in point: The Book Thief (loved!), The Help (really loved!), The Hunger Games (excellent!), and most recently, A Game of Thrones (un-putdownable!). I picked these up both based on glowing recommendations and also to see what the hype was about.  And in each of these four cases, I’m exceedingly glad I did. So this holds a lesson — yes, sometimes the popular novel is good (just like the movie that opened with a $100-million weekend or the new band on the radio, etc.). Popular isn’t ALWAYS good, but nothing should be dismissed ONLY because it’s popular. (Lecture concluded. Drive home safely.)