Reading Widely

I have my favourite books, and they’re generally classics which feature strong yet lovable women and heart-warming yet hard-earned romance. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell), for instance. Other favourites include The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), The Help (Kathryn Stockett), and Call the Midwife (Jennifer Worth).

While these are the books I turn back to time and time again, the past year I’ve been branching out to novels that are well-regarded but don’t necessarily line up with my fondness for ‘lovely’ stories.

These include The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin), as well as many others. While university can account for some of my wide reading, forcing Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) upon me for example, there are many classics I’m reading because I have an interest.

It is difficult reading some books knowing there won’t be a typically positive ending, but I can honestly say they’ve all been satisfying, have made me think, or disturbed me. Which is to say they’ve achieved their purpose.

I believe reading should be an enjoyable or relaxing hobby, but I also think it should be rewarding on some level. I love the satisfaction that comes from finishing a book, particularly one that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy, but did.

As I may have mentioned in a previous post (but can’t find), I’ve decluttered many, many books in the last couple of years. From two bookcases down to one, I mainly donated Young Adult fiction. While I still enjoy lighter novels, and still own several, I have found reading something like 1984 (George Orwell) more rewarding.

There’s definitely a place for YA novels, and I’ve read my fair share of them, they’re just no longer the first thing I reach for. While Virginia Woolf takes me much, much longer to read than Morgan Matson, at the end of the chapter, or even page, I feel like I’ve both achieved and gained something.

I’m not claiming to have superior taste in books, simply sharing my current joy in reading stories that don’t easily wash over me. Reading is more tiring than it used to be because I’m no longer skimming books for young people, I’m trying to understand a world that I don’t know much about.

Maybe I’m growing up, maybe I’m growing pretentious; who knows! But I fully believe in chasing your interests, even if they’re not permanent. Maybe in a year I’ll be obsessing over a different genre, but right now classics hold my curiosity so that’s what I’m following.

And in all honesty, I just think it’s wonderful that people read anything at all. Sure, it might be poorly written fanfiction (not that I’ve ever read that…) but if that’s what gets someone into reading and books, I think that’s great.

I’ve said this before about poetry (you can click here for that) that it took me a while before I found poetry I enjoyed reading. No shade meant to poets I struggled with, I just think that not everyone will easily read the same book. The first time I tried reading Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), I didn’t understand anything and I was quite discouraged because I’d heard so many good things about it. A few years later and I read it quickly and understood the story (thanks to Colin Firth, I guess, the real MVP).

My point is; the fact that I’m now enjoying classics, I’m going to read them as much as I can until the interest fades. Maybe it’ll never fade, maybe it will in a month. But I’m going to follow the interest because I want to and because I can.

Sarah xx

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