Author Nick Hornby has made waves with this article about highbrow books,
and people’s enjoyment of them. (And it’s fortuitous, because I just started reading one of his books, Juliet, Naked,
and he’s just phenomenal.)
Some people have interpreted that article to mean: “don’t read anything hard.”
But I don’t think it’s that at all. I think Hornby is trying to emphasize that reading should not be a chore (though, as I’ve said, sometimes it’s inordinately made into one in school). He’s saying that a book can be a “classic” or “highbrow” or “important” without necessarily being something you’re interested in and will benefit from.
I find it interesting that people are upset by this idea at all. If you replaced “highbrow” with a genre, people wouldn’t be at all surprised that not everyone likes it: ex. “If you don’t like a horror book, it’s ok not to read it. Horror may just not be for you.”
See? Is that scandalous? I don’t think so.
But sometimes we put certain kinds of books on a pedestal, sometimes just because they are challenging. I get the impression that some books–perhaps War and Peace?–are idolized not as books but as achievements to be checked off. “Oh, I read that.” Could you have a conversation about it? Did you enjoy yourself? Probably not, but you can check it off your bucket list.
And if that appeals to you, go ahead, have at it. But I’m 100% unabashedly in support of people reading because they like to read. (And, given enough latitude and choice, that everyone could be a reader if they were only given the opportunity to read the kinds of things they may like.)
Full disclosure: I didn’t get through more than 25 pages of Moby Dick. I know it’s an important and worthy book and all that, but I felt like I was being stabbed by ice picks when I read it. And I don’t feel like I’m missing that much, honestly.
What do you think? Should you buckle down during a hard read, or is it ok to put it aside?