Hey there! I haven’t sat down and chatted with you guys in a while and I figured that now is the perfect time to do so. If you’re looking for a review, those will be back up next week (it’s already written, I promise).
Anyway, on to the chat (rant? confession?).
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read at least 2 classics. And, for the most part, I included it because I want to read more classics. But another part of me knows that I added it because I want to fit into my idea of what a “real” reader or an “actual book lover”. I don’t know when I started thinking that real readers and booklovers are a certain type, but I’ve come to realize that I do. And it’s hindering my reading abilities.
The “Real” Reader
I think that part of characterization of the “real” reader comes from the fact that my friends’ book tastes have changed rather drastically in the past two years and mine haven’t really changed. Prime example: one of my friends really can’t stand YA anymore but I still really enjoy a lot of YA. For another example, all of the people who I admire as readers are people who read a crap ton of classics and old literature and, truth be told, I’m not really interested in reading most of them.
Little things like that have started to impact how I view myself as a reader, an identity I’ve been claiming for years. Even though I fully recognize that anyone is a reader as long as they read for their own pleasure, I still feel like I’ve fallen behind the curve on how to be a reader. Which brings me to my problems with Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice is great literature. There’s no doubt that Jane Austin is a great writer and one who has written timeless pieces. But I really do not like her writing style. It doesn’t speak to me. Again, that’s not to say I can’t appreciate her work from a critical standpoint – she is a truly amazing writer with a great writing style. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m simply saying it isn’t enjoyable to me.
Despite the fact that I don’t like her writing style, I feel as though I have to read Pride and Prejudice in order to be considered a “real” reader. And I don’t know how not to feel like that. What I find enjoyable isn’t what mainstream book lovers find enjoyable and it makes me feel like I’m not a “real” reader, rather I feel like I’m masquerading as a reader. It’s frustrating because I realize that it’s dumb.
So what am I going to do about it?
Well first, I’m going to read Pride and Prejudice. Why? I think that it would be a shame to go my whole life without reading one of the greatest classics. Furthermore, I think it’ll mean pushing myself to explore and understand a style I’ve largely ignored.
Second, I’m going to work on destroying my opinion of what a “real” reader. And for that, I need your help. If you know any book bloggers who read genres that I largely ignore or who you think would be interesting for me to check out, put a link to their website in the comments. I think the only way I can get past this stereotype I’ve created in my head will be to expose myself to different types of readers, especially those who read outside of the mainstream and who have different opinions from those that I (and probably many of you) hear on a regular basis.
Third, I’m going to stop pressuring myself to read what other people are reading. By this I mean I’m going to read books that seem interesting to me. I’ll take suggestions and recommendations but at the end of the day, I have to be the one to decide what books I’m going to read based on my actual interest levels. Thus, I don’t think I’m going to read too much more from Jane Austen or Shakespeare.
Lastly, I’m going to adopt a policy of giving every author at least one complete book before completely writing them off with two caveats. One being that if I absolutely cannot make it through the book, I’m not going to force myself to get through it. And the second is that I have to have some interest in the work that I’m reading.
The ultimate goal is to feel like reader is still part of my identity and to stop comparing myself to other readers. Hopefully these will help with that.
And before I leave, I want to say one more thing:
Regardless of what you read, as long as you’re enjoying it, you are a reader.
Thank you guys for listening to me have a small identity crisis. I hope you guys have been having a better reading experience than me.
Have you guys ever felt that your identity as a reader is being questioned? What did/are you doing to make that feeling go away? What should we (the reading community) do so that people don’t feel that way?