How On Trend Am I? Looking at Whether My Taste Follows the Crowd When it Comes to YA

thoughts orangutan

I’ve talked before about whether my taste follows the crowd and it’s something I often wonder about. Last month, when Goodreads celebrated YA, I noticed how closely my taste follows the crowd… well, for the most part.

Looking at 40 most popular recent Young Adult Novels and 100 most popular YA books of all time, I was surprised to find I’d read most of the books. Even more significant is how much I liked the books- my average ratings were 3.9 and 3.47 respectively. I gave 15% of books 5* in the recent YA books and 10% 5* in the most popular of all time. There were some outliers that I didn’t love (like Caraval and Lord of Shadows) or won’t read (Turtles All the Way Down), but for the most part I was at least satisfied with the vast majority of the books on the popular recent releases list. Clearly, I’m enjoying these a lot more- suggesting I’m on the right track to keep reading them. Turns out, I know my own taste! (go figure 😉)

To me, it makes sense that I’ve read so many of these as well, since these are the books with the most visibility and I’m not immune to marketing 😉 Plus, these are also books that are more readily available on a budget and if you use libraries a lot. So, in this case, I don’t feel all that bad about my taste following the crowd- especially given it’s leading to high levels of satisfaction! As much as I’d enjoy being a bookish hipster, I guess I’m quite mainstream when it comes to YA.

One thing I have to note from this experiment is that there were books on the most popular YA of all time that (at least to my mind) weren’t YA at all (Red Rising and Anne of Green Gables being the most obvious). But that’s a discussion to have (again) another day. I don’t think it massively skewed my results- though have to do my due diligence and mention it 😉

Alrighty then! Do you notice your taste follows the crowd in particular genres and categories? Are you bothered by it if your taste is quite mainstream like mine? Let me know in the comments!

How Much Does My Taste Follow the Crowd? Thoughts on Goodreads Choice Awards

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I’ve been watching the Goodreads Choice Awards from the side-lines for years. Sometimes I vote in a couple of categories, sometimes I pick up the odd book, but mostly I just see it in my periphery as a vague recommendation of books I’ve already heard everyone raving about. When I got to thinking about it this year, I realised that the vast majority I see on there aren’t interesting to me, despite being in categories I read. Since this is a popularity contest, this got me to wondering… does my taste follow the crowd? I decided to do an experiment, looking back on the last 5 years of Goodreads Choice Awards (which correlates with how long I’ve been blogging), putting it into a spreadsheet and calculating how many books I liked/disliked/am uninterested in… because I am just that dorky 😉 And my results were…

goodreads choice awards

Interesting. As you can see, the vast majority, I don’t want to read. And that’s pretty much what I suggested going in. One thing of note was that I found I was less interested the further back I went (going from not interested in 68% of 2019 contenders to 80% of the selection from 2015). This makes sense to me, since blogging has exposed me to a lot more of these books.

goodreads choice awards by genre

Now, of course, the categories I covered were only those I was already interested in- but even among those were huge differences. What I found was that I tend to read a lot more from particular categories, yet ignore others. While I do read general adult fiction, I’m usually as likely to dislike them as to enjoy them, so I don’t pay too much attention to the suggestions. I consistently found I picked up more modern YA, particularly YA fantasy, than any other genre. What’s interesting there is how YA is only 40% of my reading on average… suggesting that the adult books I’m choosing are less popular, older or outside the range of the Goodreads Choice Awards (well, not just suggesting, this is an informed guess based on all the data I’ve gathered over the years 😉) Of course, there were also lots of books in genres I don’t typically read, which I also liked (a few memoirs like Educated and humorous reads like I, Partridge). Plus, I didn’t count graphic novels, because that’s more of a newer interest and I didn’t want to skew the results, but there were *loads* of recent releases I was interested in there.

The most significant find was that when I do pick up these books, I tend to like them more often than not (15% liked as opposed to 6% disliked). Again, there’s a difference in which genres I like more- I’m far more likely to enjoy the fantasy or YA fantasy picks than the fiction category… which, again, tells you why I keep picking those up. It seems like I’m largely choosing the right ones for me from the selection.

And that’s my biggest takeaway from this (perhaps very random) experiment. If you do choose to read books from the Goodreads choice award, then try to be specific. And if you do choose less popular books or just don’t want to read any of these, then that’s great too! The important thing is to read what you want- regardless of what everyone else is reading.

So, what do you think of my results? Do you have a similar reaction to the Goodreads Choice Awards? Let me know in the comments!

Genre snobbery is a bitch

 

thoughts orangutan

I feel like it’s a becoming a biannual tradition for me to point out “sorry, you don’t get to dictate taste”. Sadly, there’s a reason this keeps coming up: every so often a member of the literati pokes their head above the parapet to denigrate genre fiction. Today’s “inspiration” is a famous literary fiction author who decided to give genre fiction a go, only to (rather hilariously) state they don’t like that particular genre… cos that makes sense. Now, without naming names, this is almost part of the course for literary fiction writer’s foray into genre fiction- they assert “but I’m not a genre fiction writer” in the same way one might say “I’m not a prostitute”. Well, as a genre whore, I take offence to this kind of language 😉 Aside from the blatant hypocrisy, I don’t think genre snobs have quite thought this through…

spaceFor starters, there is unfrickin-believable-out-of-this-world genre fiction. One of the funniest parts of this person’s argument was that they didn’t think that genre fiction explored humanity with any depth- LOL! Clearly, they’ve never read genre fiction cos there are *far too many* examples for me to list. The crux of this criticism is that they seem to think you can’t simultaneously write well and develop your world building- which is about as logical as saying you can’t eat a banana and ice cream at the same time 😉 The two are not mutually exclusive (in fact they go together rather well). So, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, the joke’s on you. Especially because…

the greatest of all timeToday’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but realism doesn’t always win out in the end or make it into the canon. And some genres (romance novels, gothic literature, even fantasy etc) do better than you think. Literary fiction stands the same chance of going down in history as one of the “greats” (regardless of whether the publisher slaps “modern classic” on the back or not).

you're not wrongThe customer may not always be right… but they’re not wrong! Let’s be real: you can’t be wrong about your own taste. Not only that, but most readers read genre fiction. The idea of going after the consumer is becoming increasingly popular- yet it doesn’t make it any less futile. A word to the wise- no one will be convinced to pick up your book just cos you said they shouldn’t pick up some other person’s book (in fact there’s a strong chance of reverse-psychology-ing them into picking up the one you told them to avoid).

party on dudesPlus, us genre sluts are having a lot more fun than the genre prudes. We’re not tied down by immature “you need to grow up” arguments levelled at adult YA readers; we’re not threatened by a bit of flirtation with genre bending books. We just dive straight into the whorehouse of endless tastes- otherwise known as every bookshop/library/personal collection ever- and glut ourselves on whatever’s on offer. Gotta say it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions and just join the party. Don’t be shy, you know you want to 😉

Im outThat said, if you’re still taking yourself too seriously after that analogy, I have one last truthbomb to drop: no one is the GOD EMPEROR OVERLORD of taste. No one’s taste is infallible; no one gets to act like an authoritarian hack when it comes to literature. And I’m not gonna apologise if that’s hurt any egomaniac’s feelings for saying that. I’d say “anyone who truly believes that they know best about what people should be reading needs to take a long hard look in the mirror”, but that’s probably what they do all day. I’m sure their hand is sore from patting themselves on the back 24/7. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have much time for anyone who thinks like this anymore 😉

And with that, I’d like to ask you guys what you think of genre snobbery? And are you a genre whore like me? Let me know in the comments!

Sorry, no you don’t get to dictate taste…

thoughts orangutan

That’s quite the accusatory title, isn’t it? But of course, I don’t mean *you* per se- just the *you* who tells people what they can and can’t like- this is turning into a “not you, you” moment…

na na na na naAnyhoo, the subject of taste was abuzz on the blogosphere a while back (sorry I forgot to bookmark posts!) and I wasn’t initially going to respond since I’ve touched on the topic a few times before. But then, I noticed a trend of comments on my “favourites” posts, both new and old, and it started to play on my mind again. Because apparently, saying you like/dislike something is controversial. We’re back to the primary school level of argumentation with your opinion doesn’t match mine, therefore you’re wrong, so there!

tasteLet’s start by clearing something up once and for all: you can’t be wrong about your own personal taste. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I find the “you’re wrong” comments whenever I talk about my favourites. I mean, they’re my favourites. Now, I usually attribute this to unfortunate wording- but I’ve also encountered plenty of people irl who seem to have no qualms telling me that I’m wrong about my own personal taste– somehow these *ahem* charming people know me better than I know myself- so that’s cool 😉 In all seriousness, an opinion is subjective and whether or not a person likes something isn’t really up for debate. Art speaks to the soul– and we cannot be held accountable for what we do and do not like.

There are of course plenty of things to contend with when it comes to books- and I do hold that some books are objectively better than others. People are of course entitled to say what they want, but yeah, it’s a bit daft to say “Shakespeare is crap”, even if you don’t like his work (surprisingly people do say that and my response is pahahaha I should be so crap). That said, whether something is more technically good or bad does not always affect taste. hallelujahI’ve disliked plenty of well written books- books I’ve gone out of my way to say “I understand why other people like it”- and that’s not a platitude, I genuinely mean the book has literary merit, even if I didn’t connect with it. And at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve enjoyed plenty-a trashy book. Nothing wrong with that. Books can be entertaining, lovely and make you exuberantly happy without being the next Middlemarch. I won’t pretend it’s on a literary par with a classic if it isn’t, yet I’ll happily sing its merits till my throat’s hoarse if there’s something, anything about it that catches my fancy- and I can’t say fairer than that.

obviousNor does it matter if a book is obscure or popular. I think we’ve all had the moment where we’ve been in love with a hidden gem and not understood why it’s not got *all the acclaim*. And I know a lot of you feel me when it comes to those dreaded overhyped books. Then there are the world famous hits it’s trendy not to like (I can’t tell you how many times I was told at uni that it was too obvious to like the Beatles- whatever that means 😉 ). The point is, we will ultimately form our own opinions- and that’s okay. Which brings me onto my most important point…

I don’t care if you like what I like or hate what I hate. Everyone’s entitled to hate what I love or love what I hate, as I stated in my “I don’t care, I didn’t write it” piece eons ago- I’m not going to take it personally. But I’d actually like to take it further than I did there: even if I did write it, it doesn’t matter. There will always be people to love and hate your work- that’s not only a part of life, it’s a necessary part of life. dc marvelThe world is a richer, more interesting place thanks to diverse thought and ideas. Talking to each other is how we learn; discussing even our greatest differences is how we grow and is the path to reaching common ground. Realising that other people like different things is all part of getting along like adults and it’s not worth tearing each other apart for things outside our control. Especially when it comes to whether or not we prefer DC to Marvel (I’ve probably started a comment war haven’t I…). And I think that’s a message we could all do with learning.

So what do you think? Is taste debatable? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!