Who tells you what to Read?


Are we conditioned at an early age to appreciate some literature over others? Some of my earliest memories of childhood reading occurred in the school library during the first grade. We were called alphabetically to choose a book to bring home and read for the week. Although there were at least four small shelves full of colourful, and probably exciting, picture books, everyone in the class desired the “Arthur” series. Unfortunately there were only a few ever in the library and they would be snatched up long before my name was called. There was a sense of pride attached to obtaining an Arthur book, and a disappointment if you missed the opportunity. I felt this disappointment often, while having to reluctantly settle on something else. Why is it, at such a young age, we find ourselves influenced to read certain books, to place them in a hierarchy? Of course, in this occasion it was due to the fact that the Arthur series at this time was an extremely popular cartoon show. But everyone, even those who only held a mild liking for the show, felt the common excitement and desire. I much preferred Garfield and Friends to Arthur, yet I too was affected by this desire.

Society, and the opinions of others, plays an important impact on what we consider popular, classic, literary, and even worth reading. We place value on what is valuable to the multitude.

And then there is the authoritative voice, be it the publisher or prominent literary magazines, which place regard and prestige on one book over another. Why is it important for society to have authoritative contests such as the Pulitzer Prize, or the Governor General’s literary award? Despite our personal preferences, there will always be hierarchy of literature. We are not told specifically what to read, but we are definitely made privy to what society deems as more valuable.

Round of words in 80 days count: 96 pages /100 🙂

photo reference:http://www.deviantart.com/art/We-read-to-know-that-we-are-not-alone-273226804


7 thoughts on “Who tells you what to Read?

  1. You are right in stating that the majority seems to dictate what we should read, wear or even eat for that matter. I guess, as we mature and begin to know ourselves and love ourselves, then we can be confident in what we truly think and believe.

    1. It takes a while to achieve that confidence though. And then, sometimes, it feels as though everyone is trying to beat that individuality out of you once you gain it. But you are right, the best way to combat this is to know yourself. Thanks for the comment 😉

  2. You’re right. This conditioning occurs throughout our educations. I remember entering my undergraduate years and experiencing a twinge of disappointment when I learned we weren’t allowed to write genre. We were steered toward literary fiction. I would sneak some magic into my stories when I could, but man, was I relieved when I got to grad school and was allowed to write about the fantastic and paranormal to my heart’s content.

    Parents probably play a role, too. Mine encouraged my reading habits and provided me with plenty of books, though I still feel slightly disappointed that my small hometown didn’t offer a better selection of bookstores.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    1. I feel the frustration you felt in your undergraduate years now, unfortunately. It can be very stifling. On the one hand, I understand the value in focusing on literary and certain fiction work, but I can’t help but resent the system sometimes.

  3. It was Goosebumps for me growing up. I honestly can’t say to what extent I genuinely liked those books, but put it this way: I was reading Monster Blood or whatever at the same time everyone else in my class was, while I was also consuming One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Interestingly, and your post made me consider this for the first time, I think some of the better points of the Goosebumps stories kind of made it into my DNA as a reader and now a writer. Yes, I would argue that they had good points, or were at least good for exposing young people to the kinds of stuff you find in great stories meant for older readers.

    1. Thanks for the interesting comment Adam. I suppose as long as the material is good there isn’t any harm in encouraging young people to read certain books.
      I remember Goosebumps. My favourites were always the “choose your own path” ones.

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