I don’t know if other people have this same experience as I do, but whenever I feel like I’m being forced to read or watch something that others have pressed upon me as something I “have to” experience, then I always end up hating it, no exceptions.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a book that has been basking in the spotlight in recent months, mainly because Hulu has released a show based on this book, an act that many have said to be timely in recent political and social unrest in the United States.
In spite of the hype, I can’t bring myself to love this book, let alone finish it. A few years ago, I started to read this book because I heard someone say it was a worthy read and important to feminist culture. I stopped reading it because I didn’t like how it was written. The story seemed off putting to me, almost confusing and I didn’t want to push myself through it. A few days ago, I stopped reading it again. This time I made it past the 100 page mark. I could mostly follow the story line, but I just couldn’t tolerate how the story was written. I didn’t like the way the story was written and I didn’t like the feeling that Atwood was withholding information just because she could in order for you to reach the end of her book.
I give you this example because I want to meditate on the following question:
Should we read books because we want to read them or should we read them because society (or individual people) pressures us to read books that they have deemed important?
It’s a question that I have debated on internally for several years. I’ve made myself read certain books because I felt like I needed to be in the loop of culture. I wanted to feel cultured, to be seen as having an opinion on important ideas portrayed in these books. But I’ve found myself growing unhappy. I felt my feet drag as I tried to come to certain “important” books. I didn’t really want to read them but other people wanted me to read them so I made myself read them. It came to a point when I didn’t want to read at all.
Of course, I’m not trying to imply that all required or important books need to cease being talked about. The concept presented in The Handmaid’s Tale is an interesting one that I haven’t heard of before and I think it’s an idea that should be talked about, but I just didn’t like how it was presented by the author, nor did I like how it was thrust upon as individuals to be read. There are people who truly loved this book and others that I’ve found a struggle to read, they just weren’t my cup of tea.
So, here is my thought, if it is indeed a coherent and important one:
I think reading should be an enjoyable experience. Obviously, some books don’t present enjoyable topics, but I think the reader who is ingesting these topics should be doing it because she wants to read it and gains something from that experience. When people talk about books (or anything in general), they should make the book sound exciting, but not make it so that the person feels like they have to read it. I found that when I hear about a book, but I come to it in my own time and place, I find it more enjoyable than when I read it because I feel pressured to read it.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course but I find reading more enjoyable when I pick books that *I* want to read rather than what others want me to read.