Between fandom wars, online drama, and ever-expanding TBR lists, reading can sometimes feel like an obligation to stay on top of rather than for fun. So what is a reader to do when it doesn’t feel like it’s something for them?
When I get into a reading slump, I have been finding it tends to be through discourse on Twitter or Tumblr that makes me feel bad for enjoying a book or series. Now I’m not talking about problematic books, I’m talking about books that people just don’t like for various reasons such as, the book is cliche or has too much “love story” in it (just to name a few).
I recently finished reading The 100 and if I’m being honest, it was not good. It felt juvenile and the romantic “conflict” between Wells and Clarke was so weird that at times I hated him just as much as Clarke did. ((read the full review here)) But when I finished it, my first thought was “Okay, now I need to find the second book”.
The same went with the Lock & Mori series. The first book had me flip-flopping between uncomfortable and squee-ing, and the second book had me feeling mad for most of it on behalf of Mori. ((read the reviews here)) But, yet again, I here I am, invested enough in the story to want the next book in the series.
As an author who actually started out writing dirty fanfiction, one of the worst things I read regularly are Harlequin Romance novels. They’re short. They’re steamy. They’re entertaining from start to finish. That’s the point of them. To be entertaining without pressure.
So what’s my point?
We watch bad movies because they’re mindless and fun to watch with friends. It gives us something to occupy ourselves without putting in too much extraneous effort. And we, as a culture, enjoy bad movies. I believe that the same can be said for books. Sometimes I don’t want to read a book that yank at my heartstrings. Sometimes I don’t want a book that makes me think too hard about what it’s getting at. Sometimes I just want something to read on the bus to work when I’ve been up all night. Something that I can finish with a smile and not be weighed down by my emotions.
For me, I see discourse in the book world as eye-opening and educational. I’ve learned more about writing diversity properly and about the true importance of listening to readers who have issues with one’s writing than I have in any creative writing class. It is important to discuss problematic books that have serious issues. So important.
But with other little things like books that are “too YA” or “cliche”, just let people like things. Let people enjoy silly little things that make them enjoy reading instead of feeling like that have to look for any possible sign problematic content. Sometimes a story is just there to be a story. And in the end, you should always read because of you. Don’t let others dictate what you should read and like. Life’s too short to live like that.
NOTE: I want to stress that if a book is considered problematic by groups who are directly tied to a book (POC, LBGTQ+, those with health conditions, etc.) please be aware of that before promoting.