Why I don’t knock people for what they love to read

So you love Twilight. Yeah, you know it isn’t the best book, yeah, you know the relationships are low-key abusive, and yeah, in hindsight the whole thing is pretty melodramatic. But why are you apologizing for it? Why is it your “guilty read”? Why … do people criticize you or make fun of you or call you not a “real reader”?

I feel the same way about pretty much every book, btw. Fifty Shade of Grey? You do you. Harry Potter still? Hey, if it’s your favorite it’s your favorite. Everything by Sarah J. Maas? We don’t see eye to eye on much, but at least we both love to read!

Okay, but Katie, they can’t read Harry Potter because its author is transphobic and trash.

Just, hear me out. I was ten when Harry Potter became like, super popular. I devoured it in a weekend, and I loved it so much I started reading it to my little brother, who was eight. Now, my brother could read just fine, but he never did. He didn’t like books, didn’t like reading. But after I read the first three Harry Potter books to him and stopped because the fourth book was too dang LONG to read aloud, he picked it up himself. He was nine, and he read that book ALL THE WAY to the end. Then, suddenly, he started picking up other things. He became a reader. These days he’s reading freaking Colson Whitehead. Without Harry Potter, no The Nickel Boys. I don’t think he’s still a big HP fan, but so many people with similar stories ARE. Who am I to tell them that the book that made them a reader is too problematic for them to continue to love?

That story, by the way, applies to any book that made someone a reader. *cough* Twilight *cough*

Who am I to tell the KAZILLIONS of women who hadn’t read a book in a decade but devoured the whole Fifty Shades series that their favorite book is stupid?

Maybe with our twenty-first century reading lens To Kill a Mockingbird is “problematic”. It doesn’t change the fact that it has spoken to people of all skin colors for decades. It doesn’t change the fact that it opened the eyes of a generation to racism, and continues to do so. It doesn’t change the way it empowers young people to think for themselves and is a touching coming-of-age story.

Maybe as a bookish community there is something more helpful we can say than “I can’t believe you actually like book-x, it is such trash because ________.” Maybe going forward we can instead try “Wow, if you like book-x you might also enjoy book-y” as a way to open their eyes to more inclusive or better written books.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to draw attention to books that have bad writing or insensitive content in our reviews and discussions. Those discussions are SO essential. I just wonder if making the conversation surrounding those books less combative might actually make those conversations more effective.

22 thoughts on “Why I don’t knock people for what they love to read

  1. Thank you! As an old guy, my guilty pleasure is the Twilight Saga. It seriously helped me through some pretty crappy times.

    I’ll never make fun of someone for what they like to read. They’re reading, they’re happy, that’s all that matters 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m working on replacing the phrase “guilty read” with “fluffy read” or something else. Because like, I’m done feeling guilty for liking Twilight. But it’s still slightly cringy when I read it, so “fluffy read” isn’t quite right… Still trying to figure that out, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel seen! I often feel self-conscious about reading books marked as ‘too young’ for me. Just because the story is simpler and the characters are younger, doesn’t mean it lacks depth or subtlety.
    This also means I should be nicer about my friend’s psychopath-murder-night terror books.
    Ah, well, lesson learned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was ready to agree with you, but then I realized I do think Fifty Shades of Grey is really, really terrible and I…might somewhat judge someone who tried to tell me it’s great art. I can see saying it’s entertaining, but if someone tried to tell me the writing is good, I would have some questions! :p

    But, really, in general I don’t care at all what people read or like. We should all just let people live and enjoy what they want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, if someone tried to tell me Twilight was a “good” book I would probably have all the raised eyebrows. But I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with enjoying something that isn’t that great from time to time! I mean, have you SEEN Transformers?!

      Like

  4. Yes yes yes! Policing what other people read or like is just silly. Especially considering how subjective an experience reading is, and how much all the rest of life factors in to how we respond to what we read. There’s just no way we can all agree on every book, so it seems a better use of time and energy to coexist in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read all kinds of things. I don’t like them all. I don’t even understand them all on the first pass.
    What we read is not our identity.
    It is nonsense to assume that you can tell very much at all about a person by what books they read, or even what books they like.
    But I think this is part of a dangerous way of thinking where we think we can make snap judgements about a person’s intellect and moral character from a very tiny data set. You can almost watch this problem getting worse by the minute.

    Liked by 1 person

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