“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
― William Faulkner
As the holidays approach, my handy-dandy stores have finally decided to stock up on sparkling juices, and that’s what I have by my side as I write. Sparkling grape juice is to die for if you haven’t tried it. Anyway, this topic is a flash from the past, but it is something that I still encounter daily as do many. Enjoy.
As an English Lit major, I (obviously) have a strong passion for reading. My fondness for reading seemed to develop in the 4th grade at my local elementary school. I can clearly remember being waist-deep in The Woodshed Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and I looked up to realize it was 11:00 p.m. on a school night (As an 9-year-old, this was a big deal), and I was still reading, totally entranced by the book. What felt like minutes had slipped into hours as I was completely absorbed in my novel. I was unaware of what was going on about me, and it was all because of this hardback sitting in my lap. Ever since that night the I noticed the power a book could wield, I made it my mission to soak up as much knowledge any book could offer. Obviously, due to my age, I didn’t go to the local library and check out the thickest volume of War & Peace I could find, but I quickly zipped through my reading classroom’s scarcely stocked collection of thin chapter books. I earned the title of “bookworm” that year, and I’ve managed to hold on to it. As I grew older, my love of books didn’t fade. I quickly became known as the girl who had a book in her purse at all times. I was that kid who hunkered down at recess with a book in her hand, and I didn’t mind the whispers and the bewildered looks from my peers (Even at a young age, I possessed the still-present quality of not giving a crap what others thought). I passed through elementary and middle school with a book at my side, yet I still felt like that 9-year-old who just discovered the magic of reading. I am pleased to say that I was not one to turn down a book. I didn’t care if it was a historical fiction, a biography, a romance, a classic, etc. Genre was just a word for categorization. I never thought to limit myself to just one when I could read them all.
When I began high school, I had read most of the material that my next four years of English classes were based on, but I didn’t care. I was partial to classical novels, but I still allowed myself the luxury of reading anything I fancied. At this time, the girls in my classes were beginning to discover teen romance novels. They dived into the works of Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks. I, myself, had read a teen romance or two, but they never were my favorites; I preferred Jane Austin and the Brontes.
An unfortunate trait of mine is my tendency to be (quietly) rebellious. With my somewhat quiet demeanor, I didn’t cause trouble, but I thoroughly enjoyed using my love of reading to baffle those around me. Instead of bee-lining towards the latest books circulating the school, I loved to find books that seemed daunting to my fellow peers. I avoided the newest dystopian romances, and veered towards books that I knew were probably better suited for someone much older. I would read a book just because someone said I wouldn’t or couldn’t (I was so hardcore, wasn’t I?), and that’s how I discovered many of my absolute favorite authors. I had always thought of reading as a hobby that one personalized. Everyone developed particular tastes for particular books like they did food. It wasn’t until the middle of my high school years that I first received judgement for what I read. I loved to find books that possessed ideas and concepts that parents and teachers deemed dangerous to youth. Any contradictory material was often what I piled into my cart at the local bookstore. It was during my sophomore year of high school that I first heard the hype about authors of young adult romances. Personally, I had never delved into serious romance novels. I tended to stick with classics, and their level of intimacy usually ended with a chaste kiss (I still swoon when Mr. Rochester and Jane finally kiss in Jane Eyre). Nonetheless, I was always open to read anything new, and I accepted a book from my sister Kate that was definitely more intense than a kiss. Yes, it was a smut book from beginning to end, and I loved it (It was an Abbi Glines novel). I will often read an author’s entire collection if I found them to be interesting, and I did just that after finishing Kate’s book. I found the plots to be well thought out and original. The books were often quite realistic in their portrayal of life events, and the steamy romance was just an addition to the story that upped the overall intensity. Overall, I liked the novels and developed a taste for particular authors such as Abbi Glines, Cora Carmack, and J. Lynn.
Because of my fore mentioned tendency to not give a rip, I didn’t immediately notice the things being said about what I was reading. I had always had teachers, students, and friends comment on the length or topic of my latest books, but now they just eyed the cover of my books warily. My school was generally strict on explicit content of anything, so I bought books with very covert covers that usually lacked the half-naked couple draped across the front, but the titles seemed to give away what I was reading. People began to make snide remarks about my latest reading material. I was once called the girl who just read porn. Even when I had a book that was from another genre, I was always asked what latest smut book I was reading (Apparently, if you read one smut book, you can never appreciate another genre again. Who knew?). I still maintained my varied tastes, but my books were always eyed by adults and teenagers, all wondering what scandalous material I was covering up now. I took great pride in revealing that I was currently absorbed in something by William Faulkner or my latest copy of Charles Bukowski poetry (I amused myself with the knowledge that they probably couldn’t understand what I was reading anyway).
“Most likely not your IQ.”
― J. Lynn, Be with Me
It thoroughly surprised me how quickly people cast down judgement on something that didn’t affect them at all. They had nothing to do with my literary tastes, yet they felt compelled to share their opinions with me. I was repeatedly told that I shouldn’t read bad material like romance novels because they were a bad influence on me (Did you know that a smut book reader is equivalent to a drug user in a small southern town?) Written sex scenes would eventually rot my brain, and nothing good would ever come from me reading stuff like that (Ironically, I was almost always told this by someone who had atrocious grammar. I found it therapeutic to mentally correct them instead of listening to their monotonous, droning monologues). Anyway, I still didn’t care what people thought of what I read. I found it hysterical that simple sex scenes were enough to perturb the prestigious townspeople. Now that I’m in college and away from prying eyes, I still read the occasional smut book. Like that young girl from so long ago, I refuse to limit myself. I do, on occasion, accept books from friends and family, whether they be smut or otherwise.
“When you find your reason for living, hold onto it. Never let it go. Even if it means burning other bridges along the way.”
― Abbi Glines, Forever Too Far
So, yes, I’m a reader. I read everything from classic literature to smut. I often break up the cycle with some poetry if I really want to be wild. I recommend that everyone read everything they can get their hands on. Life is too short to be restricted to one genre. As a rule, I never tear down others about their reading material (Or at all). Instead of being a judgmental cow, I prefer to encourage others. So, read it all. There is a never-ending supply of words to be read, so don’t waste your time looking at people who are nothing more than an upturned nose and a condescending attitude.
“Life’s too short to waste time living it any other way.”
― Cora Carmack, Keeping Her