The other day I was having an interesting discussion with Mum in the car. My mum is a firm believer in historical fiction and quality literature. She thinks you can learn the most from them, which is absolutely fair enough and quite probably true.
There’s just one problem. What makes something quality literature, and what happens if you don’t like it?
See, “quality literature” is a very broad category. I mean, really. I think The Hunger Games is quality literature, and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people out there who’d scream that it’s twaddle.
But the thing is, a lot of standard quality books, like Lord of the Rings, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, Moby Dick and Little Women are really hard to read. And I’m not saying there is ANYTHING wrong with any of them — goodness, no. A book doesn’t get added to every Book Club list ever without being pretty amazing. But hard books take a long time to read. And it’s hard to keep interested and become an educated person at the same time as enjoying it as a good fiction read.
For instance, I meant to read Great Expectations last year. But Charles Dickens? Wow. He’s got some heavy stuff going on in all his books. I didn’t end up reading the book to myself (Mum read it to me previously, but I was little, so I don’t remember much). My current knowledge of Charles Dickens: Fagin doesn’t die in the musical, the convict was related to Pip somehow (wasn’t he? Everyone else was related) and Charles Dickens managed to use indefatigable in a sentence in The Pickwick Papers. Woof. Quality literature is a mouthful.
I am firmly of the opinion that reading should be enlightening. I mean, it’s great fun just to consume a book that’s, quite frankly, classified “twaddle”. But I like to read the psychology of it. That’s the cool part for me. But who says that a book can/can’t teach you anything?
I think every book can teach you and make you think whether it’s “quality” or not. Even the dumbest of books can teach you how NOT to write.
I read Madeleine Takes Command last year, a cute little historical fiction novel about neglectful parents, incapable authorities, a bossy little girl, and a boy with hopes and dreams that had to be crushed in order for him to be a good little boy. I hated it. But! It taught me a fair bit about respecting secondary characters.
How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington is a title that screams rom-com twaddle that’s not worth the read. Quite frankly, it was hilarious, with surprisingly excellent morals. And it taught me a bit about theatre.
My point is, basically, if we stick to books classified “quality literature” we’re going to miss out on some good stuff. Some laughs, some tears, and a whole lot of information and ideas. Just because a book isn’t a “classic” or taught in schools doesn’t mean you’re going to be dumber for reading it. Just read with an open head, and you’d be surprised what you pick up.
Mime is re-reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer in anticipation for the gorgeous copy of Cress sitting on the shelf. She loves those books. She has set her morning alarm to the Phantom of the Opera today, so when she starts her day with a mini heart-attack, it’s a pretty epic one. What better way to wake up then, “Hello! Good morning! The Phantom’s coming to kill you!” Good feelings.