A popular book blogger had a post about New York Times bestsellers worth reading, saying that ‘bestseller’ doesn’t actually mean very much since a lot of not-so-good-books make it onto the list. I’m not linking to the post because this isn’t about her and I’m not even critiquing her–it just got me thinking. I am a big proponent of reading what you want, when you want. This doesn’t mean I think all books are good, or worth my time–but the operative word here is my.
I read cozy mysteries like my life depends on it. I read Patricia Cornwell and Karen Slaughter thrillers. I read Amish romances. I read fantasy and sometimes sci-fi (though the latter is rare). I also read high-brow literary works, and academic tomes, and non-fiction. (I don’t read much science, though, something I’d like to change.) Hell, I’ll even read the back of the cereal box if I have to (ie, if I’m stranded without anything else to read during breakfast).
I have a friend whose book list gives me holy envy. She goes off on reading tangents and now knows a lot about both Darwin and the Russian tsars. But just because I admire her dedication doesn’t mean I want her list, even as I’ve vowed to read more quality non-fiction as a result. Fluff fiction relaxes my hamster wheel brain more than anything else (except maybe drugs? Stoners always sound super relaxed. But cozy mysteries seem like a much more viable, safe, and legal option there).
There is so much classism and other forms of perceived moral superiority stuck under these expectations of who should read what. And to get back to the beginning of this post, bestseller lists, if nothing else, are interesting because they tell us something about the popular consciousness–if four out of the first five fiction books on the list are thriller mysteries (Grisham, Patterson, Greaney, Baldacci), and the fifth is Stephen King, that says something about the people who read books, and the books they choose to buy. Books might not be ‘worth the hype’ based on literary merit, but that there is a hype is very interesting nonetheless.
I do, however, make an exception for Twilight. And Fifty Shades of Gray. No one should be internalizing that (and I have read both, so I should know). Anything else, however? You go girl. Read whatever you want, whenever you want, and don’t let anyone shame you into thinking your tastes aren’t good enough.
to be continued…