You read during your commute. When reading Anna Karenina, you carry around your five pound copy with deckled edges. You read it with pride and hold it so that your seat neighbors can see. When reading Twilight, you hide behind the safety of your Kindle cover. You set the dim setting to low, and hold your Kindle really close to your face.
About a year ago, a Slate article “Against YA” argued that we should be embarrassed to read YA. There were a lot of great responses to this nonsense including “13 Things an Adult Should Actually Be Embarrassed to Read,” but the fact is that most of us still are embarrassed to read certain books. Why?
1. You feel guilty about not reading something else on your TBR list: There are so many books to read, and so little time to read them. Your TBR list is 35 pages long. You think that you’re wasting time by reading The Hunger Games. Maybe you are, but will your reading list ever be less than 35 pages? Like Schopenhauer said, you don’t buy the time to read when you buy books. You’ll never have enough time to read everything you want.
2. You feel embarrassed about reading books for kids: Did you know that there’s an entire movement on picture books for adults? Why should you have to grow up? We all love the nostalgia we feel when we re-read Matilda, and no one should ever have to give up Where the Sidewalk Ends. Besides, some of the best storytellers only write books for kids. It seems like a shame to give them up just because we’re too old.
3. You feel guilty about reading a book that doesn’t involve learning something: There’s not a whole lot to learn from reading Divergent, but the fact is that sometimes you don’t need to read to get something out of it. You can just read it for the sake of pleasure, the same way millions of people watch hours of television. Do you judge the guy on the bus watching Game of Thrones on his iPad? Probably not.
4. You don’t like reading books that are too mainstream: These books are popular for a reason. If you love to read a page turning, plot-driven Michael Crichton novel, just read it. Sometimes, reading should just be fun.
5. You think reading a self-help book means that you’re desperate: You pull out your copy of The Game, and you worry that people think you never get laid. You read How to Make Friends and Influence People, and you worry that people think you don’t have friends. But we all have improvements we can make, so why not read a book that will make you a better person?
6. You’re ashamed of reading erotic books: Did you know that Roald Dahl, beloved author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has a collection of short stories that was originally published in Playboy, and that he developed Uncle Oswald, one of the most debauched characters in literature? We all like what we do in the bedroom. What’s wrong with reading books like Fifty Shades of Grey once in a while?
7. You think that reading science fiction is nerdy: It is nerdy, but isn’t that kind of the point?
8. You care too much about what other people think: The truth is that no one really cares what you’re reading. So what if some stranger on the subway gives you a look when you pull out your copy of Looking for Alaska? You’ll probably never see him again.
The point of reading is not to show other people what you’re reading, so read whatever you want. Read for pleasure. Read to learn. Read to be happy.
Live in a world where The Onion’s Kindle Flare doesn’t actually need to be marketable.