To Analyze or Not to Analyze

Krysta over at Pages Unbound put out this post:  Analyzing Books Does Not Have to Ruin the Fun. I was going to just comment on that, but it turned out I had several things to say (also there was a whole “dumb cat posts keyboard smash comment” incident, sorry again Krysta) so I’m just writing up my own post about it.


I’ll admit, until high school I was one of those “why do I have to pick it apart?” kind of people. I either liked a book or I didn’t. And with the exception of Harry Potter — which I wouldn’t even say I looked at critically at the time, just that I talked about what was happening in the books quite a lot — I didn’t really have in-depth discussions about books (my friends weren’t readers).

Then in 9th grade there was this discussion of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and I got way more into it than I expected to. I wound up making a connection that shocked my teacher and sent the class discussion in a totally different direction and ended with the teacher giving me French candies and taking a bunch of notes to talk about that thing with future classes. She told us that in 9 years of teaching Ender’s Game she had never made that connection herself, nor had any of her students. Needless to say I left class with a new appreciation for analyzing novels!

These days I have three main reasons for looking deeper into the books I read:

  1. If it’s a book I enjoyed, analyzing it helps me review it so I might convince others to read it too. The more specifics I read in a review the more likely I am to take the reviewer’s recommendation, so I try to apply that to my own reviews.
  2. If it’s a book I didn’t enjoy, I’ve found dissecting it to be incredibly cathartic. There’s nothing like digging into a disappointing book to lay out all the reasons it didn’t measure up! And if you’re lucky enough to know someone else who hated it, the two of you can sit for hours and completely eviscerate it and when you’re done you’ll have cured yourself of the feeling that you just wasted a whole day of your life on crap.
  3. The third and most important reason (to me at least) is that if I don’t analyze a book just a little I won’t remember it! No matter how much I enjoy a novel, if I don’t get some chance to talk about it, even just a little, I’m likely to forget everything that happened. Which admittedly can be nice when it comes to rereading a book, but overall I’d rather remember the story the first time!

Now this isn’t to say I make myself delve deep into everything I read. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy for it, or if it’s one of my favorite books I’ll have read it so many times it wouldn’t make sense to analyze it every single time I reread it. But I try to do a little. That’s part of the reason I started doing a monthly wrap-up post, so I’d have to say at least 2 things (favorite/least favorite thing) about every book I read.
It would be more fun if I had people to analyze my books with, instead of always screaming into the void on wordpress and tumblr, but anti-social beggars can’t be choosers!

I do run into one big recurring problem though:
I find it ridiculously hard to analyze a book I really like! The more I like the book, the harder it is for me to pick it apart into individual elements. I have yet to come up with any sort of solution to this problem though. Instead I just stare at the book for a ridiculously long time and eventually in a week or so I either manage to cobble together a review or I give up.

I’d love to know if other people have the same problem, and if they have any solutions.
Which is easier for y’all, analyzing a book you love or a book you hate?

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7 thoughts on “To Analyze or Not to Analyze

  1. But…your cat is so funny! 😀

    I think it’s slightly harder for me to analyze a book I hated. Or maybe a book that bored me to tears. I don’t want to spend any additional time with a boring book! And if it’s boring, I probably started skimming parts, which makes it even more difficult to come up with something smart to say about it. If I like a book, however, I want to know more about it so I’ll probably end up doing research on it and reading literary criticism. Like the cool-totally-not-weird person I am.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think part of my problem is really the way some high school teachers approach literary analysis, which does seem nitpicky and sometime arbitrary not really fun. It’s the whole “Why did the author make the curtains blue?” cliche, when really the blue curtains might mean absolutely nothing. Personally, I love looking at broader themes and overall messages of books and how they convey them. Analysis at the college and grad level is much more interesting to me, and I love that I get to think about things like “What is this text saying about male friendship?” instead of looking at books through a microscope and pretending that it’s overly significant that the character owns a purple chair or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh man I got really lucky with high school to be honest. My teacher never focused on things like that, but I’ve heard so many horror stories! If I had dealt with something like that I don’t think I’d ever want to analyze another novel as long as I lived lol

      Like

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