Five Myths About Reading & How to Put Them to Death
In the nearly three years that I’ve been blogging through Time’s Top 100 English-Speaking Novels, I’ve had many a discussion about books and reading.
If I’ve learned one thing (other than the fact that 101 books is a lot of books!), it’s that readers have strong opinions. We’re extremely passionate about the books we like, the books we hate, and the reasons we choose to read, or not read. And we’ll argue with you to the death about these reasons.
Don’t believe me? Tell someone who’s reading an e-reader that they’re not really reading a book, and see what kind of response you get (protect your face from a blunt attack first).
Sometimes, though, those passionate opinions translate into widely circulated nonsense about reading. I call them myths because, well, they just aren’t true.
Here are five of the most prevalent myths about reading I’ve encountered:
1. “I can’t learn anything from fiction”
I hear this one all the time. It used to bother me. I’d get a little angry. But, now, I’ve grown so accustomed to hearing it that I usually just nod my head and think, Oh, bless your heart.
If you think you can’t learn anything from fiction, then you’re reading the wrong fiction.
Sure, the novel can serve as an escape. But to say you can’t learn anything from 1984 or To Kill A Mockingbird or Harry Potter, or thousands of other novels, just isn’t true.
Jesus taught in parables — in other words, a story, a form of fiction — because it’s an effective teaching method. So if Jesus thinks you can learn from a story, it’s safe to say that you can learn a lot from a novel.
2. “I don’t have time to read”
This statement will usually come from non-readers who are passive-aggressively judging you for spending so much time with your head in a book.
Truth is, everyone has time to read. It’s just a matter of priorities. If you have time to play golf, then you have time to read.
If you have time to watch American Idol (does anyone even watch that anymore?), then you have time to read. You’ve just given that time to something else.
3. “Reading isn’t an activity”
Of course it is. Sometimes, readers get labeled as lazy slackers who just sit around on their couch all day and read Star Wars fan fiction. (Not true — it’s actually Twilight on a rocking chair on the porch.)
In all seriousness, reading is as much an activity as taking a test or writing an article or giving a speech. Reading takes mental energy. Ideally, you’re reading books that you can learn from, and you’re even taking notes or writing in the margins.
Don’t buy into the myth that you aren’t “doing anything” if you’re reading. Your brain would definitely disagree.
4. “My opinion about a book doesn’t matter”
News alert: Your opinion counts! For some reason, many readers get hesitant about expressing their opinion on a book. I believe a lot of that stems from insecurity.
We think something like, If I tell them I believe that, in this passage, the sun is a metaphor for God, will they laugh at me? Will I be ostracized from my reading community for having such a terrible, uneducated, ridiculous opinion? Will I live alone the rest of my life?
But you know what? Everyone else is thinking the same thing, maybe just slightly less exaggerated. So be bold.
Whether it’s at a book group or a lunch discussion or reviewing a book on Amazon, be honest and confident. You don’t have to be a professional book reviewer or critic to have a legitimate opinion.
5. “If you’re reading [insert genre], that’s not really reading”
I call these people book snobs. And, believe me, I know. I’m a recovering book snob myself.
The book snobs might say your love of the vampire romance genre doesn’t count, or the fact that you have Snooki’s biography on your shelf is embarrassing (okay, maybe that’s true).
But you have to read what you’re passionate about. If you don’t like Faulkner or historical biographies, no amount of prodding by a book snob will change your mind.
Here’s the truth: If you’re reading anything, you’re reading. And that’s a lot more than many people can boast these days.
Bottom line: You can’t go wrong with reading
Our culture has reached the point that readers — no matter what they choose to read — should be commended for reading.
Instead of turning our nose up at what a friend chooses to read, we should just appreciate that they’re reading in the first place. After all, readers are a rare breed, nowadays.
You’ll always find someone who will mock what you’re reading or tell you that you’re wasting your time. Just smile and nod your head and go on your way. Just go read.
Any of these myths strike a chord with you? Would you add one to the list? Share in the comments.