The Joy of Reading
The joy of reading a book you actually enjoy rather than are supposed to enjoy…
I’ve always been an avid reader. My mum loves books and this definitely rubbed off on me the most of all out of my six (!!!) siblings. Whether I am escaping off into a world of magic, romance or crime, I tend to find myself there for hours at a time. This lockdown has made very little difference to how much I love reading, but has impacted how much time that I get for it. My plan is to read as many books now as I can, whilst I’m not busy, so that later in the year when I will *hopefully* start my degree, I don’t sit back and regret not having read for pleasure at all for months. The Panny-D has really made me think about the way we perceive what others think about the books we own and how there is a ‘guilt-culture’ embedded within society when it comes to what we read.
Whether it is the glorious floor to ceiling bookshelves that make a room look like a library or a stack of books on the floor, we all have some way of keeping our books. That being said, a bookshelf has become a staple item in the background of a zoom call. It could be a celebrity, a news presenter, a colleague from work, or even a friend. We are now able to judge people by the range of books that they read. Do books tell us much about a person? I often find myself wondering whether I should be embarrassed by my selection. Whether the endless amounts of dystopian fiction I read in my early teens says something about who I am as a nineteen year old. I wonder if people will be able to decipher the books that have been read countless times to the books that are still on my TBR (to be read) list.
In an interview for The Guardian, Marian Keyes was asked which book she was most ashamed of not having read. Her answer was simply genius:
‘Ashamed? Wow. Why would I be ashamed? There are far too many “shoulds” attached to reading – I read for pleasure, for escape, for insight into the lives of others. I don’t read to learn a lesson and my heart breaks for readers who feel a book should be “worthy”. Such petty, anxious snobbery is a result of people feeling intellectually insecure and there’s no need for it.’
We seem to live in a world that controls our every waking moment. What food we should eat, what clothes we should wear, and now even which books we should read. You overhear conversations of people talking about what classics they’ve read, and I don’t know about you, but I’m immensely guilty of always feeling inferior. I believe that my reading standard is a lot lower because I’d rather read a delicious romance novel over Charles Dickens. We (or at least I) seriously need to stop giving a crap. The book that you read on the tube or in a café doesn’t have to be more impressive than the one you read before you go to bed or in private.
I also hate feeling like I’m not allowed to give up on a book. The never-ending reassurance of ‘it gets better, just keep going’. What is the point of ploughing through something if you’re not enjoying it? I’m not saying to give up on every book that you don’t enjoy within the first fifty pages, but don’t feel guilty if you do give it up. Sometimes the timing of when you read a book has a big impact on whether you get into it. For example, the first time I started reading Little Women, I really disliked it and I didn’t want to dedicate my time to reading the whole story. However, about a year later I returned to it and it is now one of my all time favourites. On the other hand, there are plenty of books that I have picked up time and time again and I’ve not been able to see it through to the last page.
Usually when I finish a book, I love to look up the reviews it has. The last two books that I’ve finished I have wholeheartedly enjoyed – both to the point where I’m happy to recommend them to anyone and everyone I speak to – yet when I saw that the first reviews were bad ones I was so upset. I wondered whether the books were actually bad and that I hadn’t got the memo. Both of these books were prize winners so don’t get me wrong there obviously are good reviews out there, but it was the bad reviews that stayed with me. I now see that those bad reviews don’t matter at all. I’m allowed to enjoy a book with a one star review on amazon and hate one with five stars. Differences in what we enjoy makes us unique so stop feeling guilty for having an opinion that strays from the norm. Nobody can tell you what a good or a bad book is. Read what you want, when you want.
I’m sure that one day I will read a Dickens book. I may or may not enjoy it. I may not even finish it. All of those things are okay. Don’t spend your life letting others choose what you enjoy. Listen to what people recommend to you. Don’t take what anyone has to say as the final word. Do remember that life is short so don’t spend it worrying, spend it reading to your hearts galore.