Monday, July 21, 2008

In defense of frivolous, juvenile reading

Have you ever read a book for fun? A completely frivolous book that will not teach you anything, improve your vocabulary, give you a new perspective on a political or social or historical issue, challenge you in your faith, open your eyes to a new culture, make you feel smarter for having read it, etc.? I mean, have you ever read a book just for fun? Like, the way you would watch a TV show?

I must first inclination when choosing a book to read is to go for a classic…the books that Mark Twain calls “praised, but never read.” Since having a few inspirational and extraordinary teachers (a la Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society), I’ve acquired a few lists of famous novels that I often take cues from when choosing books to read. I’ve also developed a strong desire and curiosity to discover the greatness of these books; 20th-Century American literature seems to be a favorite of mine (Kerouac, Salinger, Capote, Orwell, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Thompson, etc.), and Cormac McCarthy is my new ‘it’ author. I am a learner, I am a reader, and I like to challenge myself by reading books that sometimes take an effort to get through…an effort that is enjoyed and that is worth it. Don’t get me wrong…I would never read a book or author I hated merely for bragging rights or to check off a list. What I am saying is that getting through a Dickens or Dumas or Dostoevsky novel requires a little more time and effort than, say, a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book. And that self-imposed extra effort sometimes makes me, and other bibliophiles, book snobs.

What I’ve recently realized is that these mass paperbacks, these New York Times best-sellers, these Oprah Book Club-stamped, on-sale-at-Wal-Mart, soon-to-be-movie books that book snobs often look down upon are not lame, juvenile, or a waste of time in any way.

After reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, I was reminded of how fun reading can be…of how much pleasure can come from being so completely lost in a story. When you can’t wait to open up a book at the end of the day and escape to a fictional world typed out on the sweet-smelling pages, you’ve really happened upon a treasure. So, thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for reminding me that I am certainly not above reading mass paperbacks! Twilight reminded me, after a long (but totally enjoyable) read through Emma, that reading can just be pure fun…effortless, sweet entertainment, and nothing more. I was completely enthralled by the story, captivated by the beauty and mystery of the characters, and intrigued by what was going to happen next every moment that I read it.

If only I could say that about Steinbeck!

So don’t hesitate to display that just-read Kirk Cameron autobiography on your shelf next to War and Peace. Read what you want, read what you like. And HAVE FUN reading this summer, and always!


Stack said...

i'll bring you the sisterhood of the traveling pants next!!!

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

I can read between the that Kirk Cameron comment directed at me?!?!

Alli Hibb said...

a)I'm bringing Twilight to Kenya.
b)I love Kirk Cameron with my whole heart.