Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does It Matter What We Read?


This week I discovered the Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase.  Unlike Crazy-For-Book's Friday Book Blog Hop, which is open to every book blogger regardless of what type of books they review, the Literary Blog Hop is open only to:

"This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion. If your blog does not fit this description, it may be removed from the Linky List. 

How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure."

All of the blogs that I have read as a result of finding this hop have been high quality, well written blogs.  I was thrilled to find them, and look forward to many long mornings having coffee with them.  I think that the idea of genre-based or topic-based blog hops is also a great idea.  I have enjoyed participating in the Friday Book Blogger Hop on Crazy-for-Books, but there are sometimes so many blogs that it can be hard to wade through them all.

Here's the issue:  As soon as I read the above definition, I started wondering if my blog would "measure up".  I mean, I have certainly read books that would be considered literary for the purposes of the hop (The Lacuna, Night, I'll Take You There) but I also read popcorn mysteries, fantasy and paranormal, and the occasional women's fiction.  I consider that I have a very eclectic mix of reading experiences, and I don't think I need to explain or justify why I read Toni Morrison one week and Charlaine Harris the next.

This led me to think about the reasons people read, because I think that the kids of things that people read are related to the reasons that they read.  Here is what I came up with in my own admittedly short thinking on the topic.

Edification:  Reading is famously seen as a window to the world, and one of the many reasons people read is to learn about cultures, eras, and experiences different than their own.  For some people this means reading non-fiction.  For some this means reading really high quality fiction that accurately and sympathetically represent the vagaries of the human experience.  Research has shown that one of the best ways to improve vocabulary and higher level thinking skills is by wide-reading. 

Entertainment:  Let's face it-humans love a good story.  From the earliest days of humans sitting around the fire telling stories of the hunt people have shared stories as a way to pass the time.  Most of the people I know who are readers read because it is an enjoyable activity, something that they choose to do despite the draw of flashier media like television and the internet.  Speaking for myself, there is nothing I like more in the world than to sit in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and a good book.  Which leads to the next reason for reading...

Escapism: When I choose to read Stephen King or Jonathan Kellerman instead of Joyce Carol Oates or Salman Rushdie, it is generally because I am looking at reading as a relaxation activity, one that allows me to turn my brain off and get lost in a story.  The demands of school and work can fill a person's brain with so much noise that reading anything of substance can be a challenge.  I suppose some people find reading really challenging material relaxing, I just don't happen to be one of them. 

So...what the heck does any of this mean?  Does it matter what you read, as long as you are reading?  As an educator, I would say no-I'm thrilled if my students find texts that engage them (though I have issues with the Disnification of certain children's literature, though more because I am anti-branding, churning out the newest generation of consumers).  Of course, as an educator I also believe in life long learning, as cliche as that phrase has become.  For myself, I try to find a balance.  Of the hundreds of books on my shelves waiting to be read, there is a shelf that is dedicated to what I think of as substantive reads.  They will come off of the shelves during Christmas break, and during the summer, when I have less work and school stuff on my mind.

What does this mean for my future as a Literary Blog Hopper?  I figure I'll give it a try.  I'll try not to be too hurt if my link disappears into the ether.  Ultimately, as much as I enjoy blogging and the dialogue that can happen as a result, my reading life is for me.  

2 comments:

  1. I had the same questions about my blog when I participated in last week's literary blog hop: does my blog measure up? Like you I like literary fiction but also some good escapism books.

    I think any reading is preferable to no reading, but reading better books is better for you.

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  2. Great post. I definitely read for all three reasons. I love when one book fulfills all three of these.

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