Read What You Enjoy

9 Feb

“My time is precious; I don’t want to waste it reading books that I don’t enjoy”, said one lady at a book group recently. There was a mixed response from the group: some nodded their heads, others exclaimed that once they’ve started reading a book, they have to finish it, even if they’re not enjoying it. I had always been taught to plough through books until their end, because we’d always learn something from them, even if we don’t enjoy them. However, looking back on my literary past, it seems like enjoyment plays a huge part in a successful learning process.

I have recently had to compile a list of my favourite thirty books of all time. Considering the fact that almost all of the books that I have read in the past four years were compulsory university reading, only one or two of them made it onto the list. I was in disbelief when I could hardly even remember what, apart from those two favourites, we had read over the course of my degree. I realised that I had spent four years reading things that I didn’t particularly enjoy, simply because they were considered educational, or classics, or ‘what every intelligent person should have read’.

There’s no doubt about it – those four years did bring me a lot of knowledge…but my knowledge came through sweat, persistence and obligation. Unfortunately, it did not come from curiosity, interest and, most importantly, enjoyment. I thought about the amazing books that I read in the months after my graduation: those books that make you stay up into the night; those that make you late because you can’t bear to put them down; those that you can’t wait to finish, but at the same time don’t want to end; those into whose world you wish you could be transported. I realised how different my university education would have been had I been reading things that I enjoyed. Studying would have been a pleasure, not a chore. Lectures would have been enlightening, rather than tiring. Essay-writing would have been inspiring, rather than depressing. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have naturally put in all my effort to do it brilliantly. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have appreciated and made the most of every single moment, rather than simply seeing it as a means to an end and pushing myself on with the thought that ‘it will be worth it in the end’.

Although I realise that I have gained a lot from my education, I strongly believe that I could have gained even more had I actually enjoyed the literature that we were made to read. True, had I not been ‘forced’, I would never have got through the classics on my own. But on the other hand, out of all the classics that I have studied, there are only a few that I truly enjoyed and would consider rereading. On the other hand, most of the books that I have read for pleasure are books that have had the most impact on me, whether philosophically, creatively or emotionally.

Today I abandoned a book that is considered a modern classic, because my complete impartiality to what I was reading wasn’t bringing anything positive into my life. No matter what we’re doing, we’re more likely to get something positive out of it if we’re enjoying ourselves. So let’s make a bit of time each day to read something that we enjoy!

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4 Responses to “Read What You Enjoy”

  1. Michael G. 09/02/2011 at 11:43 #

    I completely agree with you! As an English Lit major I had to read books that are considered classics but wre just not for me. I think that the problem with studying literature is that you are not allowed to criticise what they consider to be “perfection”.

  2. nrhatch 16/02/2011 at 14:49 #

    Yes! If we start eating a sandwich and it tastes terrible, do we feel compelled to keep eating? Only if there is no other sustenance around.

    Why should books be any different?

    I’ve written a couple of posts about this topic ~ one on the Clean (Book)Plate Club, and another more recently about how uninspired I was to tackle Time magazine’s list of Top 100 books because the books I had read from the list had not appealed to me.

    I wouldn’t let Andrew Zimmern order for me in a restaurant (his taste in food is bizarre). Why should I let Time magazine or the BBC or anyone else tell mw what I SHOULD do, be, think, eat, or . . . read?

    We don’t have to finish every book we start ~ life is too short to waste time on words that don’t resonate UNLESS we must read them for some reason other enjoyment.

    Your words resonate. I shall return.

  3. nrhatch 16/02/2011 at 14:51 #

    BTW ~ Loved the Abe Lincoln quote:

    “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

    I used it this week as well. 🙂

  4. l0ve0utl0ud 17/02/2011 at 08:41 #

    I am happy to know that my words resonate with others. Luckily, in the past few months I have been picking up books that I have really enjoyed…hopefully, this will continue! 🙂

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