The Luster of Reading to Read
I told myself in May, as soon as the spring semester came to an end, that I’d spend my summer only reading “fun” books. I started with Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Geared towards children between the ages of 8 and 15, it was the most juvenile book series I’d read since coming to college. I’d never read them before. When I was in middle school I thought I was too good for fantasy. They weren’t Harry Potter books. The writing wasn’t serious enough for my refined taste. But this summer, after pleading from a friend to give them a try, I found myself up until 3 a.m. reading chapter after chapter. Allison, the friend who asked me to read them, started lending the books to me two at a time. It was the most fun I’d had reading in forever, and I’m in my senior year of an English degree.
Fablehaven isn’t life-changing. At its core, it is a story about good and evil and the blurry lines between the two. It can be over dramatic and a bit prescribed at times. But it was an easy story. It invigorated the mind like a good childhood book should.
I think often times as writers and literary critics, reading becomes a chore. The luster of reading just to read, not to analyze or glean a deeper meaning from work, fades and we are stuck with the notion that seemingly surface-level writing (like Fablehaven) isn’t worth our time. As my summer came to an end, I flew through Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics simply so I would have what I deemed an acceptable answer to the question, “so what did you read this summer?” when classes started. I was embarrassed to tell my well-read colleagues I spent most of my summer consuming children’s literature as opposed to thick classics and other English major-y fares.
But guess what? There is nothing wrong with guilty pleasure reading. I hate that term, “guilty pleasure.” As writers and consumers of written work, we shouldn’t feel guilty for the things we read or watch, or listen to. Writing, even “bad” writing can teach us more about the craft than losing the joy of reading simply because we feel ashamed for enjoying easier books, magazines, or hell, Netflix Originals. Stephen King says in his craft book On Writing, “'If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Not everything you are going to write will be perfect. Likewise, not everything you read will be perfect. What matters is finding joy in the process and ultimately learning about your own tastes and abilities. So, read children’s fiction. Subscribe to Glamour. Watch High School Musical for the 100th time. Write some fanfiction.
As Editor and Chief of Sink Hollow my job is to cultivate a magazine with a collection of works that resonate with me, and in turn, will resonate with our readers. Find out what resonates with you, and the rest will follow. And of course, give me some work to read. I’d love to see what's stuck with you.