fantasy,  fiction,  review

There Are No Guilty Pleasures in Reading

Hey, y’all. So here’s the thing. Right now the world feels a bit like a colossal garbage fire that can’t be put out. There’s political, biological, social, and religious panic just about everywhere you look. With the incessant news flashing in front of our eyeballs 24/7, it’s downright frightening, depressing, and overwhelming.

So here’s a thought: how about we not worry about what we’re reading right now. How about we just read what makes us happy. Maybe for you, that means stuffing your brain full of dystopian nightmares because it helps you get a sense of scale to what’s going on right now. In that case, you probably don’t need to hear this.

But if you’re like me, sometimes too much is too much.

2019 was rough around these parts. And about two months in, I realized that not only I wasn’t writing, but I wasn’t enjoying reading. There’s nothing wrong with the books I was reading — they were wonderful, beautifully crafted, gorgeous works. But I had absolutely reached the apex of my emotional capacity. Normally, if I’m not writing, it’s because I’m not reading. In this case, I wasn’t writing because a) my WIP was breaking my heart and b) I was reading books that were also breaking my heart and c) real life was… yeah, you get it. So I made a conscious decision to just indulge the reader I used to be. The reader who wasn’t reading to understand the market, the reader who didn’t think about publication or making her reading list look “smart” or impressive.

…I made a conscious decision to just indulge the reader I used to be. The reader who wasn’t reading to understand the market, the reader who didn’t think about publication or making her reading list look “smart” or impressive.

I just started reading fun books for fun.

It was difficult at first. My inner critic can be one sardonic bastard sometimes. But then, well, I just sort of let go. I stopped thinking about the stuff that dragged me down and got really invested in the storylines and the characters, pretty much without pretension. Were there things I didn’t like/would have changed in these stories? Oh yeah. Do I care to elaborate? Nope (at least not online; happy to chat in person!). I will say the flaws in one story helped inspire an entire book I’m almost done writing. It didn’t mean the book wasn’t enjoyable. But I (gasp) learned something? I didn’t need to take it to Twitter to bash it. I just moved on. I started another book.

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

And… it worked. It’s still working. I’m not avoiding reading heavy stuff, and I plan to have some in rotation soon, but I’m also not going to feel guilty about gobbling up some YA romance. Or some adventure stories. Or some good old fashioned urban fantasy.

I also discovered an author I might never have considered before: Leigh Bardugo. I fell head over heels for her Grishaverse (magic! adventure! queer teens!), and I audibly squealed the other day when I found out one of my favorite characters was in another book she wrote. I haven’t felt this way about characters in a long time, and I certainly haven’t devoured a writer’s oeuvre like this, either.

It turns out, storytelling is kind of a required function of human coping. Considering that most people read about four books a year, I think we could all invest in letting loose and reading more.

There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. Reading. For. Fun. There is nothing wrong with reading what some consider “low brow” or “less than” because you know what? Eff those people. We need stories so damned much right now, and personally? Stories of hope amidst big, crushing evil feel really essential right now. I find it amusing that people write of entire genres because they think they’re somehow childish.

Don’t know where to start? I just sat back and took a look at what I would have loved to read when I was a teenager, when I needed these stories. I didn’t have the width and breadth of YA, for instance, that we do now (thank the heavens I had Meg Murry).

So here’s to reading whatever the hell it is you want to read. Just read. Fill your cup. Rejoice in what makes you happy. There’s so little we can control in this world, and life is too damned short to avoid the kind of joy that books bring, no matter the genre.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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