I hate lists like this one recently from The Huffington Post.
Thirty books to read before I’m 30? I’ve read a whopping 4.5 of these… I’m counting the .5 as the part of “Leaves of Grass” and “Critique of Pure Reason” that I read in school.
These lists bother me because they perpetuate the idea that some reading is better than others. The average person reads something like 12 books a year. (So, if you’re 27, you’d better get started pronto, so you can finish in time.) Never mind that I read 75-100 books a year…. they don’t count on a list like this.
True, this list is full of great books. Yes, I’m in a “We Feel Guilty we Didn’t Read this in High School” book club.
But reading needs to be a balance of things that are fun and things that are challenging. Slogging through a list like this would be like eating only spinach for a years. Yes, spinach is good for you, but sometimes, a person needs a dish of ice cream.
My reading is often like bowl after bowl of ice cream and sometimes I need to remind myself to be challenged with a classic or an “important” book, like a more modern award winner. Still, I worry that lists like this continue the idea that only certain types of reading are valuable. They can perpetuate the idea that genre reading is a “guilty pleasure.” I cling to what Laura Lippman said, “Where’s the guilt?”
We’re reading books. The 60+ genre fiction books I devour in a year aren’t any less valuable. Reading, like watching TV or yoga or whatever else, can be fun and done for lots of reasons that don’t have to be improving yourself. But if you’re reading for fun, that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty.