Reading should be enjoyable not a chore

Growing up, somehow I was under the impression that I should only read books that are supposedly “good”. This would typically mean hard to understand, dense literature, that would go over my head and make reading a chore rather than a fun activity that had the potential to bring me much joy and pleasure.

But is that really the best way to develop a sustained interest in something? Recently, I’ve come across multiple write-ups and points of view on how following your interests and curiosity is really the only sustainable way to pick and choose what books you read, and finding reading a pleasurable activity. It has been heartening to hear how there’s no such thing as “books that are good for you” and “books that are not good for you”. You should actively follow your interests and curiosity, and ignore everything else. The books that you enjoy will further guide you on what to read next.

In his essay “Why our Future depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming”, Neil Gaiman touches upon this – “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books and letting them read them.”

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and then it becomes fashionable among some adults to point to a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I’ve seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was R.L. Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy. It’s tosh, it’s snobbery and it’s foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to someone encountering it for the first time. You don’t discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer them to read. And not everyone has the same taste as you.”

“Well meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: Stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool, and worse, unpleasant.”

This is so true! It just does not make sense to trudge through a book that is supposedly “good”, but carries absolutely no meaning or joy for you.

I came across a similar sentiment from Naval Ravikant, a successful investor in Silicon Valley who has invested in over 200 companies including Uber, Postmates, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. On reading, he says: “When I was young nobody forced me on what to read…I was lucky that there was no one around when I was seven years old or six years old saying, ‘You shouldn’t read that. You should read this instead.” By reading what you love, eventually you develop a love for reading.

All of this to say – don’t be afraid to read what you like, even if it’s stuff that is considered “trash” in mainstream media. It does not matter. Your time is yours, and it’s up to you how you choose to spend it. Reading can be a supremely joyous and calming activity, not to mention the access to knowledge that it gives you. Enjoy it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s