Politicked Out

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Well here’s something I’m not sure many people on here know: I’m obsessed with politics. It’s pretty hard to get me to shut up about it in real life and I follow a lot of it (too much). So by rights you would assume that every time an especially political book comes out that I’d be excited to read it… but that’s not the case at all.

You see, what with all the podcasts and articles I read, I can’t say I’m especially excited to read books that moralise to me about matters that I’m pretty sure they know nothing about (well the arguments often use generally betray that)

Now I’m not talking about books where it’s pretty clear that they’ll be political- especially non-fiction– because they’re “does what it says on the tin” kind of books. And if you pick up a can of beans and are disappointed when you find that it is in fact a can of beans, then that’s on you. All I can say about that is I went about 6 months subconsciously avoiding any fiction which is overtly political– and now that I know I’m doing it, I’m gonna keep at it deliberately.

Because the truth is- and forgive me for making the political personal- I’m a bit tired of it all. I’m tired of the constant intrusion of politics into art, I’m tired of the fact I can’t go five minutes without being clobbered over the head with someone’s view, I’m tired of feeling like there’s a good chance I’ll have to defend my political views or skirt over it entirely if I do decide to share my thoughts on a book. For goodness sakes- I’m a book reviewer- not an economist, not a social commentator, not a politician.

Yet there seems to be a movement of people- especially in the contemporary world- who are determined to bring messages into books, make every romance political, overpower us all with their propagandistic flair. *Newsflash*: that’s not how it works, nor how it should work (crazy idea, I know, but if you want to be informed you have to read some pretty boring things). I don’t think anyone’s mind was ever changed by a throwaway line in a fluffy romance… just sayin’.

And what I’ve found is that when it comes to reviewing books which have sneak attack politics embedded into their core is that I don’t feel comfortable objectively discussing what I had an issue with– which makes my job as a reviewer nigh on impossible. I can’t lie and I can’t get into the ins and outs without writing an off-topic essay. And I don’t especially want to (see above: not a politician, don’t want to be either). Nor do I fancy being dragged over the coals for my political views. It’s not really relevant.

Of course, everyone has the right to read what they want; everyone has the right to write what they want. All I’ll say, for people planning on shoehorning politics into their books, spare a thought for us poor political junkies who might end up reading it. It’s not necessary all the damn time.

Apologies for the rant, just needed to get all this off my chest. I’ll leave you with this:

What do you feel about politics in books? Yay or nay? Let me know in the comments!

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86 thoughts on “Politicked Out

  1. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I am completely with you. I don’t mind politics and moralizing if I know I am going into them. It’s the sneak attack which wears me out! At this point, I’m DNF’ing so many books which affront me this way— I am not in the mood. I’m too burned out!

    Are there any books in particular which led you to writing this post?

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! Glad you agree!! Yeah exactly! I read a lot of political books on purpose- I don’t really know why it has to be shoehorned into everything though :/ Like you said, it wears me out. Totally get that!

      hehe well I’d been thinking about it for a while, but fairly recently I read Beartown, which I enjoyed, but was borderline political, with actual slogans shoehorned in. Kinda pulled me out the book a little.

      Like

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I hate politics masquerading in my books. Theology and philosophy is one thing, but politics are those things in action and I can’t ignore or argue theoretically about that. It’s personal then.

    and I want to ENJOY my books, thank you very much.

    So fistbump of support!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Cozy Pages says:

    don’t think anyone’s mind was ever changed by a throwaway line in a fluffy romance…

    Thank you! I’ve been there, reading a book (cozy or romance) and there is literally this one liner plonked in to rally for a particular political cause/ issue/ person… and i am left wondering… was that for real? If I choose to read a book that i know is politically based fine, but really, don’t just sneak it in.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Winged Cynic says:

    What an interesting rant! I can’t say that I’ve read too many politically fueled books myself, but I think I can relate to the feeling that you’re being blasted with an agenda when you simply want to read a good book for a change. Authors tend to shoehorn in some cause just so their book can appear more progressive or relevant, but it does come off rather disingenuous in the long run, and quite frankly, burdensome. Terrific post!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. R.K. Lander says:

    What a great discussion. I’m with you on this one completely, although perhaps I would take things a little further and tell you I actually find this practice immature and / or arrogant. Why a writer thinks her readers need to be instructed on political matters simply irks me. Philosophy, ethics, absolutely, indeed it’s almost impossible not to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much!! I’m really glad you agree!! hehe I think that’s a fair assessment 😉 I completely agree with you- that’s not why I’m reading most books!! Absolutely agree! I love philosophy and ethics in books- but not politics!

      Like

  6. raistlin0903 says:

    Haha: sometimes it’s good to rant: it takes care of letting out some steam. I really have no interest in politics at all. So I tend to avoid any news on it, not to mention that having it in books makes it even more annoying for me lol. But we live in age where I guess everybody just wants to leave their own marks and views on things. And where better than in things like films and books. Ugghhhh 😢😢

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I do not encounter too many political “sneak attacks” in the books I read, but I think I tend to avoid those such as yourself. It is a sure fire way to make me shelf or gift a book to a poor unfortunate soul (aka unsuspecting victim). I cannot do it. I know politics are important. I know involvement is, but reading is my escapism. There is no room for politics (unless we are talking totally fictional political systems) in my escape from reality. Well ok, my one exception is feminism dystopian. I am drawn to it 😉 But technically it merely offers some food for thought and never seems to “tell” the reader what to think. Excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hehe well that’s good that you mostly avoid it. Ahh yes me too- I can’t stand when it happens casually in books. I agree- books are where I escape from the real world. hehe yes, of course, fictional politics doesn’t count 😉 and I think I usually expect dystopia to be political- however the plausibility of the premise will usually be what makes me either pick up or discard a dystopian novel. So I kind of put that in the “get what you paid for” category 😉 Yes, for sure. I think when it’s more obviously political I much prefer it. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. savageddt says:

    The warhammer genre I read has a lot of politics, but its got nothing to do with idiots running the countries nowadays. No, its set in the 40th Milennium. Its a constant war and with war politics go hand in hand, so I get by. In real life, stuff is pritty screwed up (have you had a look into South African politics?) so badly its a fkn joke… Theres something called freedom of speach, but you can get locked up if some one takes offence at something that wasnt meant as a threat… I dont like it…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. FranL says:

    I think an author has every right to include politics in his/her books. Whether I want to read them or not is another matter. If a political figure writes a book, chances are it will be fairly overt in its political leanings, and I expect that. I won’t read it unless I want to know what he/she thinks about political issues!

    If we’re talking about fiction it gets a bit more complicated. I’m of the belief that writing is an inherently political act. If I’m writing escapist fiction, I still have to make decisions each step of the way: Will the characters look like me racially/ethnically? Will they come from a similar socio-economic background? Will it take place in the present or the past? Whether the answers are yes or no, it’s still a political decision on some level.

    Then I need to address whether the characters are involved in politics and if so to what extent. If I’m writing about a politician than his/her beliefs will probably play a role in the book. But let’s say that I’m writing a romance, and none of the main characters are in a situation in which their political beliefs have any influence on the story. Then it would be awkward if I tried to insert a political message. If I wanted to share that message, I should have made different choices earlier in the process and created a book to which it belonged.

    But I think that generally, it’s hard to pull apart art and politics because politics has a way of entering into our lives in ways that we’re not necessarily aware of. And it’s sometimes hard when an author I enjoy is arguing a political point with which I disagree. But ultimately I need to decide whether or not I’ll let it put me off the author’s work. I think that for me it depends on the work itself. Am I getting enough enjoyment/entertainment out of it to deal with a political point of view that I find off-putting?

    I don’t know if I actually wrote anything worth saying in this comment or if I just threw out a few ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Absolutely- definitely think that anyone has the right to read/write whatever they like. I definitely get what you mean and agree with you there for sure. Even if I don’t agree, it’s worth listening to different views anyway- so I’d never criticise non-fiction for being political.

      When it comes to fiction, like you said it’s more complicated- for me personally it comes down to whether I expect it- and that can be something I’ll judge based on the blurb or the genre. Someone, for instance, mentioned dystopia in the comments and I generally have an expectation that it will be political.

      I’m not of the belief, however, that writing in general is inherently a political act. I personally don’t hold with views like the “personal is political” etc. So I don’t view such decisions as political- nor agree with such political analysis- but on a personal level I largely ignore it, due to not agreeing with the underlying philosophy (sorry to be blunt).

      I think that’s fair- I can barely think of any authors where it’s permanently put me off their work. It’s more the randomness of some discussions that will put me off the individual book- and usually just dock a star depending on how irritated it made me or how distracting/unnecessary it was. Hope that makes sense.

      No problem- it was very interesting to read- I hope you don’t mind my honesty!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. diablo578 says:

    I admit that books nowadays are getting a little too political and I’m frustrated that even in something I use for escapism that I can’t really escape. On the other hand though, I think adding in certain elements of politics to reflect modern culture is interesting if used sparingly and subtly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah I completely understand. Like I said, everyone has the right to read/write what they like- and I know that there are people who enjoy it and that’s fair enough. Personally, I can do without it and agree more with your first point about escapism 😉

      Like

  11. alilovesbooks says:

    I suspect I don’t even notice a lot of the sneak politics in books or if I do I probably skim over and instantly forget about it. I’m interested in politics in real life (there’s so much change going on at the moment it’s difficult not to) but I don’t really want to read it in books particularly ones that are not described as political.

    I noticed in one of your earlier comments you mentioned Beartown. I read that fairly recently and genuinely never noticed the political aspects or not enough that they bothered me (or that I even remember them).

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I completely understand that- and I often wish I didn’t notice some things cos then I’d enjoy it more 😉 Yeah for sure- it’s pretty hard to ignore all of it (though I’m starting to think that a bit of distance would do me some good 😉 ) Yes i agree with you.

      Ah well, it was just the way the you-know-what (I don’t want to say for fear of spoiling other people in the comments) had some fairly overt messaging attached- things I’ve seen on various political campaigns and discussions. Still trying to wrap my head about what I thought about it though, cos it was a good book in general, it was subtly done and it clearly tried to give a full picture. I hope that makes sense.

      Like

  12. Nel says:

    That’s one reason I keep towards fantasy books or paranormal. There are politics involved of course but they aren’t real. Made up polices based upon made up words with made up ruled that I can dig into and pick a side. Like you, I listen to way more NPR and read political articles as it is. I can’t help it though since the world is going to shit and I want to be up to date, lol. But when it comes to books, the whole reason is to escape the real world and it’s nonsense not escape only to be pulled right back into it with fictional characters. Anyway, great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I think that’s a good call to be honest- I never have this problem with fantasy or paranormal. Exactly- that tends to be so much better! Yeah I completely agree lol- although I think I’m going to try (for the millionth time) to cut back (it’s not always healthy for me lol) YES! Thank you!! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  13. lucindablogs says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Apart from the fact that I don’t appreciate having my relaxing reading time invaded by an unexpected political opinion, they’re never impartially presented, always one sided and are often a very reductive version of a complex issue.

    In terms of Beartown, I’m not sure that it’s the politics but I’m halfway through and I just can’t get into it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I’m glad!! Exactly!! I completely agree with you- and it’s so true about how it’s never impartial and is always super reductive (especially when it turns up in YA contemporary… and I’m never quite sure why it does turn up there 😉 )

      hehe I understand that- it’s very slow going for a lot of that- I don’t know if I was fixating on certain things cos of the slow pace. I rated it highly cos of how well written it was, but I had pretty mixed feelings about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Never Not Reading says:

    I’m also done with politics in the media. Not just books, but movies, TV shows, all of it. I consume media to get away from all that crap, not to be beaten over the head with it. And when it’s well-done I don’t mind it from time to time. (A REALLY poignant episode of Brooklynn 99 comes immediately to mind), but in general I would rather not read it.

    And I totally get what you’re saying about being afraid to comment. I recently read The Song of Achilles, and while the homosexual romance was really well done, I didn’t really buy the social stigma against it in ancient Greece. I felt like the author was projecting modern concerns. But I didn’t really know how to go into that in my review because I was afraid that I would get attacked by everyone and their mom for being insensitive or something.

    Liked by 3 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah I so agree with you! It literally comes up everywhere (and is incidentally why I’ve stopped watching a lot of tv in 2017… so I guess they did me a favour cos I read more books?) I’m the same! Yes- I get what you mean- looking back on tv I used to watch, there were often poignant episodes, but they were so well done I didn’t mind. But what I can’t stand is how often slogans (real life slogans) work their way into tv shows. It’s sooo weird and it pulls me out instantly. Just the casual insertion of politics is really insidious (I obviously feel more strongly about the tv stuff)

      hehe I hear- I actually did mention that in my review. Frankly half of my degree was in classics, so I was having none of it 😉 (I actually spent almost my entire review on corrections tbh 😉 ) It was well done from a literary standpoint, but the presumptions underpinning the historicity were plain wrong. But I have definitely come across that problem in other books and circumstances (a lot)

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    AMEN TO ALL THIS. I also like to stay on top of politics – but hey, authors, guess what? If I wanted to read about politics and political opinion, I’d seek it out myself. I don’t need any political commentary being slipped into my fiction – and that goes for everything else in life. It’s so tiring to see politics injected into art, sports, etc. It’s annoying no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. Authors are free to write whatever they want in their stories of course, but if I come across political crap in a book, I actually get a sour taste in my mouth and it would make me rethink picking up anything by them ever again. If you’re a writer of fiction, just do what I’m buying your work for and write good stories! That’s all that matters! I could care less what their politics are.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you agree!! YES! Oh gosh I am so fed up with it in *everything*- I actually mentioned to someone else, I’ve mostly given up on a lot of new TV cos I just can’t stand it anymore. Yeah, exactly, it doesn’t matter what your opinion is- it’s irritating. I do too- it makes me instantly knock off a star or two. Exactly!!

      Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah I personally don’t want it hidden in my books. Well, like I said, it depends on the book- if it’s a sci fi or dystopia I won’t care- but if it’s anything else, like a contemporary, I’ll just be wondering WHY. I don’t want to constantly be thinking about the polar ice caps melting- so if it comes up I’ll just be irritated.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. lostartofreadingblog says:

    I don’t mind reading a book about politics, but I want to pick it up for that reason. I don’t want it randomly thrown into my escape reading. I don’t need everyone to be yelling from all directions about their politics, bit of a time and place I think. I think it can be a lot of help for people who can’t see both sides of an issue, fiction can put you in the others shoes. But not every book, it’s annoying to be honest.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. littlebookynook says:

    YES!!!! I 100% agree with everything you just said!!!! I read predominantly fantasy, and I actually find the political aspect generally doesn’t annoy me because I can generally separate it from real life. What I HATE is movies and tv shows that are political. Like…I would go as far to say, wait for it…I ABHOR them. I will stay away from anything that seems remotely political like it’s a contagious rash. I see most of it as propaganda and I absolutely cannot stand it. All these movies where the foreigners are the bad guys and the white house is taking them down….to me it just furthers people’s fear and loathing. But bringing it back around to books, if it feels like the author has some sort of political agenda it’s the best way for me to DNF a book!! Great post AS USUAL 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I’m so glad you agree!! Oh I totally get what you mean there- I really don’t mean fantasy politics by this and I agree it’s easy to separate that from real life 😉 But man, yes, it’s turning up more and more in movies and tv and it’s *exhausting*. Yeah I really agree with you that so much of it is propaganda. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Briana says:

    I sometimes feel the same way. It’ interesting to me how a lot of fiction coming out has a very obvious political agenda. I mean, politics and worldviews get into art pretty much always anyway (the book has to believe in something), but usually it’s just something like “YA books tend to all portray casual sex as good and desirable.” (Which, I don’t know if that’s a “political” view, but it’s a view that not all people agree with but one that YA mostly seems to agree with and push? Whether that’s good or bad being irrelevant.) But, yeah, far more overt politics are definitely becoming a thing in YA, and I’m not sure I’m interested; perhaps I’m more of an escapist reader than I thought. Interestingly, however, I tend not to care about overt politics in older books. Bring on the John Steinbeck, and I’ll find it amusing rather than annoying.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah that’s true and very fair. And yes, sometimes things that aren’t overtly political will be deemed as such. (I’d say that’s more cultural 😉 ) Yeah exactly. haha I have to say I agree with you- to be fair, though, if you can write like Steinbeck I’d say you can write whatever you like to be honest 😉 😂 I really don’t judge classics in the same way, mostly because the political zeitgeist has moved on, but also because the beauty of the language/art will make me immune to any politics it contains 😉

      Like

  19. Rebecca says:

    The only time I enjoy politics in my books is when I’m reading some high fantasy or dystopia where the politics in question are completely fictional – then I’m completely wrapped up in it. But when it’s obviously related to our own political climate, yeah – I want to chuck the book against the wall. I’m so fed up with extreme right and left.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Carrie says:

    Politics have never been a favorite subject of mine anyway and let’s face it the past two years have been nothing but politics wherever you look so I try to avoid as much of it as possible. Just too much arguing back and forth these days without any mature discussions so there’s no way I’d pick up a book about the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Tim Vant says:

    Wow, for once I find myself agreeing with you…or is my own art being infiltrated by politics? Orang-utan you will probably HATE my latest post… heh. No really I must be ill or something because this is an awesome little post by you and right on the money…better check temperature… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. forgedinink says:

    I totally agree with you on this! But I have a had a few people not like books because they weren’t socially or politically aware, in essence they were upset at the lack of politics. I guess in some ways we just can’t win. Happy Reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you! hehe yes, I think you bring up a great point. I know that some people really *want* their books to be political, and that’s their prerogative. I guess it just makes sense to consider the fact that there’s a lot of people like me who really don’t want it, if that makes sense. I think there’s a market for both, as long as publishers are upfront about it. Happy reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. TheBookishUnderdog says:

    I’ve not really noticed politics sneaking into the fiction I read (though I’m sure it’s there), but your post made me think of dystopians. They are the most overtly political novels I can think of. Are you into those? I love a good dystopian, especially with a class system theme!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Fair enough! To be honest, I view dystopias as being political automatically, and as my said in my previous post, I don’t mind that in the same way. I’m more bothered when it seems irrelevant and unnecessary. So yes, I also love a good dystopian 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. MichaelK says:

    I can totally relate! If I want to read politics there is an overabundance of books on the subject (in fact each subject seems to have been politicised at one point or another). Of course there are nice ways to get a message across but blatantly forcing it? Come on, writers, you can do better or can’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. LizScanlon says:

    You simply have to know by now that anything you say, in my eyes, is just pure gold…:D you take the serious and deliver it in a really god way… darn it- I can’t see anyone disagreeing with you here!
    Great post and yes to this–> “*Newsflash*: that’s not how it works, nor how it should work (crazy idea, I know, but if you want to be informed you have to read some pretty boring things). I don’t think anyone’s mind was ever changed by a throwaway line in a fluffy romance… just sayin’.”

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sophie Li says:

    I absolutely love this post. You make a great point (and made me laugh!) 🙂 I agree in that I love it if a book is about, say, police brutality or racism and it takes the entire book to illustrate that point. However, it gets annoying when politics are introduced randomly in a conversation or scene when it obviously doesn’t fit in.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

    Yeh… Nothing like a sneak attack. No one likes the unwelcomed surprised! I do like politics, philosophy and what not within a story if I know it’s something that would be integral to the story, but if it comes at me with a purpose to seduce me when I never cracked open that very book for that very reason? Pass! Great post, and hopefully you’ll find some secret strategy to avoid these. Or maybe just DNF’em or something hahah 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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