Musing Mondays—July 11, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks

Do you think it makes you NOT (or less) “well-read” if there are certain genres that you won’t read because you KNOW you won’t enjoy them? Why?

This is an interesting question, and I don’t have a clear answer to it. I’ll try to illustrate through some examples instead. I haven’t been a fan of the Russian classic literature I’ve read so far. I have really tried. Despite liking the movie [amazon_link id=”B002WC88A8″ target=”_blank” ]Doctor Zhivago[/amazon_link], I found I couldn’t get into the [amazon_link id=”0679774386″ target=”_blank” ]book[/amazon_link]. I had to slog through both [amazon_link id=”0451228146″ target=”_blank” ]One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0199536368″ target=”_blank” ]Crime and Punishment[/amazon_link]. Folks rave over these books. They do! And they must have a reason. I feel less well-read because I can’t bring myself to try more Dostoyevsky and I’m afraid to even begin with Tolstoy.

On the other hand, I also think it’s much more important to read books you like. I have said many times that life’s too short to read bad books. I came to the conclusion some time ago that I had to read for me, not to satisfy some arbitrary definition of “well-read.” After all, what does that really mean? Some folks would define it as reading a certain number of “classics,” while others would define it as reading a certain number of books. Still others would say it’s reading broadly, including a variety of genres, as well as reading a large number of books.

I think I have reached a place where I am happy with the amount I read and with what I read. I would consider myself well-read by my own definition, which includes having read a fair number of books in the classic canon as well as a fairly large number of books in general. But that’s just my own definition. I may not be well-read by yours, especially since I have so much trouble with the Russians. Either way, I am satisfied with what I’ve read and how much I’ve read. I think it’s much more important to seek out books I know I will enjoy rather than worry that other folks don’t think I’m reading widely enough. After all, it’s not my job to critique books, and even if it were, I have a hunch that most reviewers tend to specialize in genres anyway—at least somewhat. Reading is my favorite hobby, and it has given me a great deal of joy and pleasure. Why make it another chore by worry about whether I’m “well-read” enough, whatever that even means?

6 thoughts on “Musing Mondays—July 11, 2011

  1. Interesting question. I really like your answer. As long as you enjoy what you're reading, who cares if others categorize you as "well read" or not?

    1. Thanks! I see a lot of book-snobbery, and it always gets on my nerves because as an English teacher, I am just happy to see people enjoying reading. I'd rather not worry about what.

  2. This is a good question. I think 'well-read' is in the eye of the reader, definitely! I also agree that it is good seeing people READ! I personally try to read different genres, but I will not read certain things….books about vampires, for instance, been there and it's WAY over done…cannot wait for this fad to CEASE!

    As for the Russians…they're SO depressing! (I should know…I spent a YEAR studying them in college for my major!) He dies, she dies, or everybody is tortured in some way! Enough already! Now, French existentialism is a different story! LOL 🙂

    1. It's sad about the vampires, too, because I felt Dracula and Anne Rice did them up right. They don't have real fangs anymore in some of the more recent books.

  3. Dana, you should know that Tolstoy is MUCH more accessible than Dostoevsky. So before you give up on the Russkies, give him a go. Of the door-stoppers, ANNA KARENINA is the best bet. Of course, LT wrote a lot of shorter works, too.

    I feel the same way about Austen, Wolff, and George Sand as you do about the Russkie. "No" and "Thank you!"

    1. I love, love, love Jane Austen! I have only read one book each by Woolf and Sand, so I can't say if I love them or not. I had thought about trying Anna Karenina before giving up, but I keep shuffling it to the bottom of my TBR pile.

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