Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: Reading without Guilt

For this round of the Blog Chain, Demitria asks us:

What are your guilty pleasure books/genres?

to which I plead Not Guilty, by reason of I Feel No Guilt For Reading.
(Unless I'm accused of reading too much--but that's another issue.)

Sing it for me, George!

Guilt implies that there are some books not worth reading--or books that are bad to read. Admittedly, books are going to differ in quality. Some might be very strong in some areas, such as voice or worldbuilding, and weaker in plot or character. Some might be well-written all-around. And some may turn me off before I finish reading the first chapter. Even critically acclaimed books may not resonate with me. (Sometimes I can see why they might be praised for one thing but feel they're lacking elsewhere.) But since I have so many books and samples on my Kindle, and since I can (and do) download new free/cheap books every day, there's no reason for me to spend time reading a book I don't enjoy on some level. If I decide I don't want to continue reading a book, I delete it and move on to something else. I currently have over 440 items in my Kindle's To Read collection; why waste time on a mediocre (to me) or distasteful book when I can find something else that suits me better? On the other hand, if the story appeals to me strongly enough, I may continue reading even if there are craft issues--though I've done too much manuscript critiquing to shut the critic up when I'm reading.  Then again, how else will I improve my craft?

Are some genres "better" than others? Most of my fiction reading these days is in fantasy and science fiction, with some mystery and historical fiction mixed in. Speculative fiction doesn't appeal to everyone, but for me it has value. It doesn't just offer escape from the everyday world, but it allows us to look at our current world in new ways, explore new ideas, and think about the future. On the other hand, some genres don't appeal to me, but I can see how they might work for others. I don't want to label a genre as a "guilty" one because I feel this is a subjective judgment.

As for my own reading, I go back and forth between "light" and "serious" books, whether they're fiction or nonfiction, as the mood strikes me. I figure I have enough reading experience to judge for myself what I like; I don't need a publisher or critic to tell me what to read and what not to read. Reviews may give me some guidance, but in the end, it's between me and the book--and Goodreads. If you want to know what I've read so far this year, here's my list.

Reading is a valuable activity that takes us out of ourselves and puts us in the mind of someone else. It can teach empathy and broaden people's horizons. While we may disagree on what genres we like and which books are good (as opposed to which books are popular), in general, readers shouldn't feel ashamed for reading.

I'm between Kate and Christine in the Blog Chain, so please check out their responses to this question as well.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think I have any guilty reads either.

Sandra Almazan said...

That's good, Alex.

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