I read…well, a lot. I’m keenly aware of this. It’s a subject that often comes up with friends and co-workers who see me reading and have taken to asking “What are you reading now?” or “How many books have you read this week?” But it’s just something I do. I get enjoyment out of reading that is different from watching a movie or playing a video game (though I certainly do those things frequently as well). It’s just another (albeit wonderful) form of entertainment, but it’s one that I also think triggers my imagination and memory in ways that other media just can’t quite achieve.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my roommates in which he told me he doesn’t like to read. The way he said it made me think he was either ashamed to admit it or he thought that I (as someone who usually reads every day) was going to judge him for it. Of course, I said that’s totally his prerogative. We all have our interests and things we enjoy. While I definitely think reading is important, I’m certainly not going to go around forcing other adults to read if they’re not interested in doing so.
This weekend, though, there was a bit of a change. I came upstairs in the morning and stopped in the kitchen for breakfast. My roommate was awake (early for him) and sitting in the living room with is iPad. When I came into the room he said “Oh, hey, I need to show you something you probably won’t believe.” He flipped the screen around and I could see he was reading a book on the Kindle app. I simply smiled and nodded.
After I settled in on the couch I asked what he was reading. The response I got was that same face he made before he told me he doesn’t like to read and then he quietly admitted “It’s a World of Warcraft novel.” I laughed but then I simply asked “Is it good?”
What I realized in that moment is that many times when people are encouraged to read, they’re encouraged to read specific texts. In my roommate’s case, he said that he figured someone who reads like I do would think a Warcraft novel wasn’t a “real” book. This is so far from the truth for me, and we had a conversation where I explained my view that reading is reading and I would never laugh at someone or shame them for what they read. Heck, I read things that I’m sure some of those same people who consider only high-brow literature worth reading wouldn’t consider “real”. I’ve read some Doctor Who tie-in novels. I read a fair amount of m/m romance novels, some of which I’m sure are right up there with the Harlequin titles my mother used to carry in her purse (not to disparage those books at all, simply to draw comparisons to a similar stereotype). But they’re still stories. They get me reading. They stir my imagination and memory and they engage me. And even if they’re poorly written (which is probably the only type of criticism I would offer of someone’s taste in books, while still recognizing there’s an element of personal taste there, too), they still contain those elements.
So, I say: read. Read whatever you would like. And encourage those around you to do the same. Don’t laugh at someone for reading Warcraft novels or Harlequin romances or graphic novels. Who knows, they might even be able to recommend something from that genre that you’ll enjoy and expand your own horizons at the same time.