If you were like me you spent a good chunk of every weekend curled up with a book. Reading was one of your favorite pastimes. I remember that my parents literally couldn’t get me to talk to them during dinner because I would prop my book up between my plate and my drink. I’d even have friends over and we’d end up reading our own copies of Harry Potter side by side – not talking, but sharing an experience. That is what books give us that is so immensely valuable. They afford us the opportunities to go on adventures and gain experiences without ever leaving your bedroom. I still am an avid reader (although since starting college I have not had the time to read nearly the amount of books I want) and my favorite afternoons are the ones spent losing myself in a story.
I will read anything – history, biography, classics, fantasy, mystery and even young adult. For me, there is no better way to learn about myself than to see my quirks reflected in a character. There is no better way to escape a hard day at work or a dramatic relationship than by delving into a fantasy world full of magic and fantastical creatures. There is no better way to use my brain than by trying to solve a mystery novel. There is no better way to understand history than by reading a historical fiction novel. In my opinion, reading can connect us to ourselves and others in ways that nothing else can. It can teach us more than a classroom ever could. I learned about faith by reading a novel about Joan of Arc, I learned about history, the reformation, slavery and the revolution by reading novels on Tudor England, Marie Antoinette, and the American Girl Dolls. I learned about inner strength, determination, teamwork, evil, love and women from Harry Potter. I could go on and on, I have probably learned more things from reading fiction than from living my own life.
Unfortunately, the books I learn the most about life from are the ones that are most often disregarded as childish, or even demonized. The books that have had the most profound impact on my life include Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The White Queen, The Crystal Cave, Wicked Lovely and Game of Thrones. Obviously, there are many more I could list, but most of them fall into the genre of sci-fi/fantasy and young adult. That’s not really what you want to tell someone when they ask, “Have you read any good books lately?”
Recently an article was circulated around social media telling adults that they should be embarrassed by reading YA literature. You can find the text of that article here. There have also been plenty of articles written in response that support YA lit, some of which you can read here and here. But the point I want to make is, why the hell do you think you have the right to tell me my opinion and tastes are wrong?
If I like a book, I’ll read it. I don’t care if it’s well written, if I’m the intended audience, or if it’s going to impress someone I talk to. I read it because it hold my interest. What interests me may not interest you. Telling me that I should be embarrassed of my interests is like telling me that I have to be a housewife because I’m a woman and forgetting about my interest in cellular molecular biology. So, don’t presume to tell me what to read or what I should like. I’ll afford you the same courtesy.
Isn’t the important thing that we’re reading? In this age of social media, television, and tabloid culture we should be thankful for anyone who is inclined to read anything. So, who cares if you’re reading a story about a magical princess who falls in love with a knight and has a pet unicorn? You can learn a whole lot about friendship, right and wrong, faith, and decision making from these stories. I mean really, would you ever advocate that people not read fables (which all have wonderful morals that apply to adult life) because they’re children’s stories? No. So don’t be dumb and demean someone’s literary choices. That person may very well need to learn something that the book about a young wizard has to say. That is, unless you’re perfectly fine with them calling you an arrogant, out of touch intellectual with no social graces whatsoever.
So read what you like and enjoy it. There is nothing that can be more healing, educational, entertaining, and relaxing than losing yourself in a book. (Plus studies show your brain is considerable more active while reading than while watching Scandal, and you’re actually strengthening your mind regardless of the content of your book – just some food for thought.)