Reading the Right Things.

Maybe you read to distract yourself and escape into a reality that is not your own; possibly you are motivated by the prospect of learning new things and accumulating new knowledge; most likely you read because you get some semblance of enjoyment from it. In any case, reading is important. Evidently, as you are reading this, you think so too.

However, many people feel embarrassed or ashamed because they are not reading the ‘right’ thing. These people hide the cover of their books in public (if they ever take them out of their house) because they’re reading a paranormal romance like Twilight rather than an acclaimed classic, such as The Great Gatsby. They lie about or skirt over what they’re reading because they feel anxious that their reading habits will be found out and ridiculed. Even worse, they think that they themselves will be ridiculed.

This is not the atmosphere we want to create. We want our audience to be excited about reading, not apprehensive. When 46% of Australians aged between 15 and 74 have literacy levels below what is considered necessary to get by in everyday life, it would be wrong to discourage reading merely because we find the writing bland or the plot convoluted. That someone wants to read at all should be celebrated.

There is undeniably a sizable gap in the quality of writing between Stephanie Meyer and F. Scott Fitzgerald: Stephen King stated that Meyer ‘can’t write worth a darn.’ However, it is impossible to dismiss the Twilight saga, and other inexplicably best-selling novels (i.e. Fifty Shades of Grey), as poorly written stories that don’t deserve the success they have achieved. It is these books that have reignited public interest in reading and greatly supported the publishing world, which in today’s world can’t be anything but a good thing.

There is nothing wrong with someone reading popular novels or romances or even online fan fiction; to say otherwise is to suggest that there is something wrong with reading. If you don’t like reading those types of fiction, don’t stop someone else who does.

So far I have read an eclectic and varied group of books this year, from Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) to Company (Max Barry) to The City of Bones (Cassandra Clare). Some I’ve liked more than others, and some I would recommend. The point is, though, that I haven’t regretted reading any of them. If it encourages you to read and to continue reading, if you get some enjoyment from it, then it is the right thing to read.

Ariel Skippen.

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