Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Way Back When

All of us bloggers had a 'back in the day' time when we ventured out with our naive little posts praying that someone would read them. We'll, I'm going to be adventurous and post one of those long forgotten articles, ready for a re-hashing with my new followers. So here's a post from my first month of blogging almost a year and a half ago. Enjoy!

The Infernal Book List

I'm sure you've all seen it, it has plagued the walls of Facebook for sometime now. It has brought on bragging airs and dismal looks. It has made your heart glow and made you want to rip it up in the same moment. It is the top 100 book list.

They lure you in by saying most have only read six (a complete and utter lie for any high school graduate) so that you think if you've read twenty-four of the books you've done pretty well. That is, until you see that one friend who has supposedly read eighty of them. Then you feel like, even though you are an avid reader, you have somehow failed yourself.

It's as if only these 100 books will ever matter, and if you dare read anything else your doomed. Well I have news, and maybe I'm the first one to say it (but probably not) I don't want to read every book on that list!

A few years back I had several people tell me to read Wuthering Heights. "You've read Jane Eyre," they said, "this was by her sister." "You're a hopeless romantic," they said, "this will tear at your heart strings." So I read it, and I hated every minute of it. Why did I torture myself and read to the end? Well because I felt as if I didn't I was failing in the reading world somehow.


"It's a classic!" those people shouted. "You're not allowed to hate the classics!" Well guess what, I don't care! Why am I going to torture myself by dragging through a hundred classics that I don't even enjoy?

Granted, there a few I would truly like to read, little women  for example (amendment, I read it and loved it). But I must ask, what is so wrong with simply reading books I enjoy? There is a treasure trove of brilliant unknown books out there--and if I like it, I'm going to read it.

So what if I never read The Republic of Plato? Am I really ruined as a writer or a person if I don't?

Maybe I'm just ranting. Maybe I should at least attempt Plato. But if I'm not enjoying it I'm going to stop.

For today, I'm going to continue reading the latest James Patterson novel. I'm going to eat some more Easter candy and I'm going to read every last indulgent line. And I'm not going to feel guilty, not even one little bit.

What are you're thoughts? Should a book be read just because it's a classic? Or should we broaden our horizons?

21 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love this post! Sometimes I wonder how some books get on these lists. I posted on on my blog a while back that was nearly 10 years old. It was full of current releases at the time, and I wondered how much newer releases would have supplanted those older ones.
The summer my mother died (and I'd just moved to a new city) I went through a lot of classics waiting for school to start and a chance to meet kids my age. It was a good experience though I've only read a few of them more than once--Jane Eyre, for example. Loved it. Wuthering Heights. Um, no.

Louise Bates said...

I am SO GLAD I'm not the only one to hate Wuthering Heights. Oh, it was dreadful. An absolute waste of my time. I ought to have read Jane Eyre for the 50th time instead of wasting my precious reading minutes on that!

Some classics are worth it if we push ourselves through them. I always feel enriched after finishing a Dickens novel, no matter how painful the getting-through process was. On the other hand ... I tried reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a few years ago for an online book club, and finally gave up partway through and just skimmed the rest, and I've never regretted that decision (I only wish I'd made it sooner). So I guess it depends on the person, and the book!

Tobi Summers said...

I stopped reading Wuthering Heights halfway through. Before that, it took me six months to get through Sense & Sensibility. I'm starting to realize I may not be cut out for most of the "classics" (with the exception of Little Women. I love that one too). I keep trying though. I'm taking another shot at Dickens soon (Great Expectations... which is ironic when I consider how low my expectations are). I feel like the only way I can earn my Elitist Reader badge is to read a bunch of old stuff. Plus, then I can answer the tough questions on Jeopardy. ;-)

Sarah said...

There are a lot of the classics that I enjoy and a lot that I can't stand. I agree with you, though. Don't bother if you're not getting something out of it. I say, read the classics that resonate with you and indulge in the lesser known ones you enjoy.

Having said that, I will add that some of the classics I've forced myself to read and suffered through have surprised me with their poignancy. Some of those have become my favorites (The Scarlet Letter. Tess of the D'urbervilles, Jane Eyre, etc).

Carrie-Anne said...

I mostly only read books of a certain age, though I haven't always liked them. I picked Jane Eyre for my novel in my 7th grade English class (taught at the 8th grade honors level), and only got to Chapter 35. I pulled an 82 on the test by picking the essay portion for my major credit, and then the multiple choice IDs. The writing style bored me, and it still squicks me out how Mr. Rochester is old enough to be Jane's dad. Maybe it wouldn't bother me so much if she'd been well into adulthood when they met, not barely out of adolescence.

Cassie Mae said...

Never read Wuthering Heights. (I've never read P&P all the way through! Lol.) I read what I want, and not because it's popular or because 'everyone has read it'.

Samantha May said...

I don't care for the Bronte sisters. There, I said it! I've never particularly enjoyed their books (though I will admit, I haven't read anything by Anne. She might end up being the one I like :D).

When it comes to classics I like what I like. I like Tom Sawyer but not Huck Finn. I like Pride and Prejudice but not Sense and Sensibility.

There's NOTHING wrong with not reading/adoring every "classic" out there. Who has time for that? ;)

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of the two times I have attempted to read Thoreau's Walden. Couldn't do it either time.

I do try to mix reading a "classic" (or best-seller, or prize winner) with a fun book, throwing in a book on writing for good measure. Some of the esteemed reads leave me baffled as to why. But I guess that's part of the learning curve too, trying to figure it out.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Haha, I had the same experience with Pride and Prejudice, except I didn't finish. I admitted to myself that I'm not a hopeless romantic and I didn't give a hoot about Mr. Darcy. And I never will. But that's the type of reader I am. And the type of writer I am as well. And that's okay.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Not keen on the Brontes or Thomas Hardy - in fact, a lot of the classics leave me a bit cold, but I love Jane Austen! I should attempt a few more, but it's hard when there's so much new fiction being published.

What a great idea to repost from the early days :-)

Kelley Lynn said...

Yeah, I read what I want to read, and even that isn't enough. I need to find more time to read! What's the secret? Haha

The Golden Eagle said...

I think some books deserve to be read for their content--I can't say I really loved reading War and Peace or (even less) Pride and Prejudice, but I am glad I read them anyway since now I know what they actually address.

Livia said...

I think we should broaden our horizons and that will make us better readers.

But I also think we should read classics because they're classics. They teach us about life and morality.

Great post! :)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I read classics. I can't help it. I like them. I think the writing is downright dreadful in some of them. The meandering, the omniscience, and the winded descriptions but the message, the world of the past, the society that no longer exists, and the ability to talk about them with strangers/grandma's/AP English kids.

Some of my favorite books of all time are classics. (Dracula, East of Eden, Pride and Prejudice, and Tess of D'Urbevilles.)

But I wouldn't assume that everyone should read them.

Wuthering Heights was torture.

Sherry Ellis said...

Classics can sometimes seem boring, because of the outdated vernacular. I think it's good to read a variety, though, so I read both classics and contempory material.

Mark Noce said...

Great post:) It's full of sincerity and good intentions...and to me that's what counts most.

Tara Tyler said...

i never had an interest in reading or writing in hs because of forced reading...i got over it, but will still omly read what i like!

Carol Kilgore said...

I like to read what I like, too. I like James Patterson :) And I rarely enjoy books people think I should read. Perhaps we're related?

Happy Weekend!

Emily R. King said...

Great post! I'm all for reading the classics, but I won't be swayed to like them just because they are classics. If I don't like 'em, I don't like 'em. I still shudder when I hear someone say they liked "The Grapes of Wrath." Ick.

Jessie Humphries said...

I pretty stuck to the classics in college, now I want to read awesome contemporary stuff.

Deirdre said...

I love/hate looking back over my old writing...but since I'm a new reader/follower- it's all new to me- LOL.
Happy Weekend!