Reading “Difficult” Books

I like to read genre fiction.

There, I said it.

In fairness, this is what I prefer to write too.  I like interesting, multi-layered stories.  I don’t like fiction I have to decode.  I don’t like fiction without plot, or even worse, a plot that ends up going nowhere.

I read a few “difficult” books at the urging of a friend, specifically The Crying Lot of 49 by Thomas Pynchon and The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace.  Both of those books took me far longer to get through than anything else I read.  It felt like work to get through them, and not satisfying work either.  Work that ended up being ultimately unrewarding.

Some people really enjoy working their way through a book and finding satire or some deep message.  I don’t.  In fact, I don’t feel smarter after reading books like that.  I don’t feel dumber either; I just feel like I wasted my time.  Perhaps I just don’t like it when I feel like language is being used to obscure rather than enlighten.  I’ve enjoyed reading many of “the classics,” but most of those books were meant to be read by a lot of people.

I enjoy reading some types of difficult books.  Books with rich language, layered narratives, and lots of characters.  I don’t mind when a book takes me a long time to get through, as long as I feel like it was worth the effort by the end.  (A Prayer for Owen Meany springs to mind.)

As I’ve gained more life experience, met more people, seen events and had adventures, I’ve grown to enjoy different books.  While I still love genre fiction, I also enjoy more classics.  I’m glad I tried those other books, and that I was open enough to read books recommended by a friend, even though I didn’t think I’d like them.  I was right, but I think it’s better to try something and not like it, than to be unwilling to try it at all.

What do you think about trying books that you don’t think you’ll like?


One comment on “Reading “Difficult” Books

  1. Lea says:

    I think you’re point is true. Reading (or anything) shouldn’t feel like work. There is too much in life making us feel less than and our favorite leisurely activity should be just that. I say, read what you like and I’m trying to embrace the adage that I can always quit a book that feels like work. Trying and being open to new genres is great but shouldn’t be your only option.

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