Kristin Lavransdatter: There have been two notable effects that have come from the part of my life I spent reading and writing about human rights and their violation. The first is that it definitively ended my interest in the depiction of violence. I was never much of a horror movie person to begin with--or comic-book-violence, or "this is art and not spectacle, no, really"--but I have very little patience for it now. The benefit of this has been missing out on a really large part of the TV renaissance, since "he comes out of the room, and half his face is blown off, but he lights a cigarette before he dies and it's SO COOL" is not appealing, and, apart from being convinced that it has redeeming aesthetic value, is in fact, and objectively, a really weird thing to think is cool.
The other has been a decline in interest in a certain type of narrative, approximately "let me show you the resilience/baseness of the human spirit by having terrible things happen to my main character for a long time." It's taken down a strangely large number of reading projects--Vanity Fair, for one; it's the problem I still have with The Mill on the Floss even though it is quite clear things will end up tolerably well. This is not a requirement that narratives have happy endings, or that nothing bad ever happen to main characters--it's just that the line between "depiction of reality" and "sadism" is remarkably thin. Kristin Lavransdatter was going along just fine--well, even--until the Beautiful Man with a Shady Past shows up, and... the momentum has been lost. I'm sure 800 pages of her learning to reconcile her past mistakes with her faith will be riveting, as will The Trials She Will Inevitably Face, which will lead to Personal Integrity In A Fallen World (word on the street is that there will be a Love Triangle with Beautiful Man and Good Man Who Was Spurned But Still Loves Her). I'm just not sure I'm willing to keep reading along.
The Bostonians: Fine, so far, which is not yet very far.
Biographia Literaria: A 400-page book best known for a famously hard-to-parse structure? Sign me up!