I realized some time ago that every time I tried to read something popular with people my own age - from Oprah's book club to the New York Times bestsellers - I would generally wind up miserable by the time I was several chapters in.
Books contemporary adults find moving, passionate, timely, provacative - I find disturbing, distressing, depressing. Rape. Incest. Surviving abuse. Divorce. Murder. Abandonment. Widowhood. Every character, horribly scarred by SOMEthing, in the name of making a "timeless story of survival."
I don't even like the ones supposed to be funny - what passes for adult humor these days is too often wry, sarcastic, snappish, and ugly.
And so... I gave up modern adult realistic fiction. I'll still read fantasy and have recently been introduced to something called "cozy mysteries," and my jobs (teacher and picture book writer) make reading children's literature qualify as meaningful work as well as play, but since abandoning all things Literary and Important - I've found a new joy in the innocent and gentle side of life. (I've also ditched Young Adult Fiction as an entire genre, fantasy or not - too edgy for my tastes.)
I may not ever be able to discuss modern classics at a cocktail party or with my far more erudite cousins - but since I don't go to cocktail parties and my cousins love me anyway, it's no great loss to me.