Reading for Pleasure Doesn't Mean Having to Exclude Challenging Books
A few months ago my book club was reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and if you've been reading this blog for more than a week you know it's one of my all-time favorites. Some of the ladies last read the book when they were in high school and there were others who'd never read it before, so I was excited to discuss it with the group.
Occasionally we'll get messages from people who are thinking about joining the group. They'll reach out with a couple of questions to see if the group is a good fit, and I love it when this happens because it's an opportunity to share how amazing the Bad Girls Book Club is and hopefully have a new person join us.
A couple of weeks before the To Kill a Mockingbird meeting, a lady wrote to us expressing excitement at an all female book club that meets in her neck of the woods. She asked what kind of books we read, and the truth is that we read a little of everything. There was a phase where the group read a lot of banned books, then a phase where the group read Ohio authors. No genre is off the table. Just since I've joined the group we've read popular fiction, nonfiction, comics, graphic memoirs, classics, and more.
Usually the variety of things we read is a plus for people. There's a good chance we'll read books in their favorite genre, as well as open them up to things they might not have otherwise picked for themselves. I expressed this in my message when the lady asked about the group's reading tastes.
But when she heard our upcoming book was To Kill a Mockingbird, she immediately threw on the brakes. Her reply was "Oh boy. I might have made a mistake. Shame on me for not reading the description better. Racism, slavery, American history, and the classics are not on my radar. I read for pleasure and entertainment. This stuff's too deep for me."
That's her prerogative, though her comment makes the assumption that if you read about serious topics or read the classics that you can't possibly enjoy them because their depth prevents it. To think a book couldn't be enjoyed because of the topics it covers without knowing any more about it and without even trying it is to do yourself a disservice. It'd be one thing if she tried it and didn't like it, but to write off multiple genres on account of one book seems silly to me.
I realize that people's reading preferences are subjective and everyone has their favorites, but it doesn't seem sensical to dismiss books you haven't tried and aren't willing to try. Nor is it sensical to try to join a book club if you're not amenable to reading a variety of books, some of which you don't pick out yourself.
If you only want to read a very narrow slice of literature, just stay home and read whatever you want. There's nothing wrong with that. The benefit of a book club is to get exposed to books you might not otherwise have picked up yourself and discuss them with a group. If that's not something you're interested in doing, then simply don't.
Of course, I didn't say all that to her, but I was certainly thinking it. And, as you could guess, there wasn't a person who came to the meeting that didn't love the book.
Any book can be read for pleasure. Any book can be a "beach read." Any book can be enjoyed if you're willing to at least give it a try. That's not to say that every person will like every book, but you'll never know if you have a narrow-minded view of what's potentially enjoyable.