My thoughts on this:
Do you ever feel like you’re reading the “wrong” books or seeing the “wrong” movies? Critics and “experts” can often make you feel that you’re not reading worthwhile literature, calling it self-indulgent or mindless fluff. In my opinion, you should skip what these people have to say and form your own thoughts/likes/dislikes on a book.
I believe that it’s important to be exposed to different forms of literature in school, even though I haaaated reading Great Expectations in high school. In University though, I found that I had a passion for geography and really enjoyed reading my textbooks and writing papers on human and economic geography (including a ten page paper on the different rice strains grown around the world — never something I thought I would find interesting or fascinating). Because I was introduced to these different topics and books, I have been able to surprise myself, know myself a little better and really figure out what I enjoy reading.
Typically I read memoirs and other forms of non-fiction because I love being able to relate to or read about other people’s lives and stories; however, it’s important to switch it up now and then, so I’ll throw in some fiction every once in a while. You’ll never know what’s going to grip and surprise you if you don’t step out of your box now and then. If you are interested in a topic or a book that you normally wouldn’t read, go ahead and read it! It’s not a life-long commitment to a certain subject, it’s only a book. And if you end up hating it, well, now you know. You can always stop reading and wash your hands of it.
Point is, don’t not read a book just because it didn’t get a great review or someone else doesn’t like it. Take time to form your own opinions and find what really makes you happy.
In her introduction to The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing discusses how she used to get a lot of mail from college students asking her for a list of “authorities” and critics who have commented on her work. This, of course, was long before the internet.
That prompts her to write several pointed paragraphs about what she calls the “literary machine.” It’s pretty awesome to read, especially if you tire of the pretentiousness of many literary critics. Here’s part of what she said:
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