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?