When you read books for review you become as much editor as reader. Some books I mark up as though I'd been the editor, striking out clunky sentences and extraneous detail, noting in the margin when something either clangs or sings. Now that's become habit. Instead of sinking into a book, like I did as a kid, I've developed the habit of reading as though I were a writing teacher, hyper-aware of syntax and style, dialogue and characterization. Letting only minor blunders pass by.
Some of that's a positive. Reading time is limited, getting more so every year. There's no extra time worth squandering reading bad books. Identifying in the first chapter (or, sometimes, from the first page or even paragraph) how worthwhile a book is has saved me much wasted time.
For instance, Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book, the "B" read for my personal 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. I got halfway through it yesterday, despite a few glaring flaws. It isn't as much the plot, that I'm enjoying. It's the characters. They're wooden. Any one of them could be exchanged for another and it wouldn't make the slightest difference. There is little to no definition between them, male or female.
I know most readers notice some flaws. I worry reviewing brings on a certain hyper-vigilance preventing me from getting past imperfections, impelling me to toss aside almost as many books as I actually read. Then again … Maybe that's a good thing? The positive is I don't read books that aren't well-written, and feel no compunction tossing them aside. What I do read is what I consider the best of the best, nothing iffy unless I'm forced to by prior committment, or because a book is like a train wreck, something so abhorrent I skim through to the end, so I can pan it mercilessly – out of spite the big publishers choose this junk over better writing by "unknowns."
My voice may be a little one but, dear reader, I use it when I can. And, starting nearly immediately, I'll be using it more often, jumping back into the reviewing field with both feet, making use of all available venues – some library world-specific, some more general and "out there." I think I have enough to keep me busy. Let's put it that way.
Free books weighed against hyper-vigilance. Guess it's up to the beholder to decide if it's positive or negative. Now that I've written it out of my system I can look back and see maybe it's not so bad, after all. In at least this one case, discrimination isn't such a bad thing.