What I read and why: Defending the right of the reader to pleasure

So, here I am, this self-proclaimed lover of stories, and I've been holding out on you... I haven't included a link to my Goodreads widget for good reason.  Or at least in my own paranoid imagination.

Why? Because I'm afraid to share what I read, or rather to share everything I read, for fear of judgment.  Alas, isn't this inevitable?  No matter what I share someone is bound to hate it, to think it plebeian, or dull.

So, I'm coming out of my reading closet, just a bit, to talk about what I read and why. You see, when it comes to reading, I am an omnivore.  I read what tastes good.

In my life so far I've read much of it all:
Youth fiction (mostly in my youth)
Scifi (mostly C.S. Lewis)
Modern literature
Chick lit
Romance (although I'm not into bodice rippers, I'm more likely to go for some Jane Austen derivation)
Historical fiction
Non-fiction - history, natural history, health and nutrition, biographies, self-help, etc.

And I find that at different times, I read different things.  And over time, my tastes have evolved and gone through phases.

In my childhood, I had absolutely no form of book snobbery.  I was not embarrassed to say I loved Nancy Drew or Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables.  But I also once read a 1,000+ page biography of Queen Victoria at the age of 12 too.  I carried that book around school and read it during breaks. Don't ask me what I was thinking.

As I grew older I began studying "English literature".  When you see these words, you must picture an eccentric woman, with interesting glasses, artsy clothes and funky jewelry, scoffing at lesser forms of storytelling - because I had that woman as teacher and professor, many times in many incarnations.  I delved into the classics and eagerly tried to expand my depth of experience.  Then eventually I fell in with some regrettably deeply intellectual types, who exposed me to wonderfully quirky works of writing, but only further deepened my literary snobbery.

I felt as if "one must read to better one's self - enjoyment is irrelevant."  I felt as if whatever I was reading I must be proud to tote around, demonstrating my sophistication by the cover of my book.  And so I struggled through difficult, tedious books with little pleasure except my own sense of pride in self-betterment.

At some point in the last five years I turned a corner, returning back to a childlike love of story. I was tired with torturing myself with self-betterment, and I wanted to enjoy reading again.  So I thumbed my nose at notions of literary snobbery.  Wait, actually I thumbed my nose in private, because I've been afraid to do so in public, until now. 

I began reading embarrassingly pink chick lit by Mary Kay Andrews and thick fantasy paperbacks by Robert Jordan with even more embarrassing cover artwork.  I fed my anglophilia with genteel Jane Austen knock-offs and light-hearted mysteries by Dorothy Sayers and Will Thomas.  I then fared into more eccentric waters with Boris Akunin.  And here recently the supposedly-for-teens Twilight saga has dominated a few months of my reading time (if you want my highly cultured opinion on this cultural phenom, you'll have to wait for another missive). Of course, thrown in the mix were also more intellectually challenging but still highly enjoyable works such as George Eliot. 

And so, as such a reading omnivore, who's also sometimes timid about her selections, these days I tend to carry my books round in tote bag, instead of wearing them on my chest.  But I'm tired of feeling I need to defend the right of the reader to pleasure, and I am going to start sharing more of what I enjoy and why.

Do you have any secret reading material? Or are you unafraid to reveal all?


  1. I was an English Lit major, so I am supposed to say I only read the Classics. But truth be told, I love so many different genres!
    My guilty pleasure is the Shopaholic Series! I can't get enough of Becky Bloomwood.
    But I do love Sci-Fi too. Heck, I just love a good story, and I am starting not to care what people think. If it's good, I'll give it a go.

  2. Oh, love the new header! One of my favorite series of books by Diana Gabaldon - the first one is title "Outlander" - not something that I thought I would enjoy, but I LOVED them all. Have you read that series? Thank you so much for stopping in and posting a comment. I have to agree with you - a tank top, jeans and one of Elva Fields statement necklaces would be absolutely beautiful. Hope your having a wonderful day.

  3. Your blog is looking really great. I like the new header and especially the turquoise/orange color combination. Very, very nice.

  4. I read an article in body+soul recently on finding your passions and it included a quiz of "door-opening" questions to self-exploration. The first one was:

    "Imagine that your local bookstore is reducing its inventory to one category of books. If it were up to you to choose the single remaining genre, which one would it be?"

    My answer came immediately, without debate - memoirs. They're a perfect mix of good stories and real-life experiences, often teaching me something in the process.

    How about you? (And saying you just couldn't choose one isn't allowed.)

  5. Awesome question Amy! For me the answer wasn't so immediate. I spent all afternoon thinking about it. My first thought was, well hey, I can always go to another bookstore or buy online! But then I decided to take the question seriously. I meandered around the thought of home decor and cooking books, which are browsing favorites. And mysteries, fantasy and sci fi, which make nice page-turners.

    But I decided that if I could only choose one, the Jane Austen section must stay. So I loosely defined it as the Classics.

    I'm not really sure what that says about me. Except that I feel the richness of language is more intense in the classics, in a time when people didn't have so many modern diversions.