I read this article and my brain flopped out of my gaping mouth.
The article picks apart some recent statements by bestselling novelist Nick Hornby, and his suggestion that readers should not force themselves to read difficult books. Hornby says, “Novels should be like TV. It shouldn’t be hard work and we should do ourselves a favour.”
OK, before I get passionate and start ranting, I want to say this: TV can be thought-provoking, immersive and emotionally powerful. TV can be fantastic.
And there is nothing wrong with authors writing easy-to-read books; sometimes you just want to curl up after a long, hard day and relax.
But to prescribe that all books should be easy, that all books should be nothing but popcorn entertainment — this is evil.
Reading is work. It has always been work. But it’s rewarding; it can challenge your reality and bring you to new levels of understanding, on almost any subject.
If I had stopped reading the first time I found a book ‘too difficult’ I would never have learned how to read. I’d probably sit around all day watching TV (and not necessarily the good kind). I believe I am a superior human being because I stuck with many books when they were too long, or confusing, or just too damn hard.
What’s a hard book anyway? Read this list from goodreads! Plenty of these are famous (or infamous, depending on your educational history) for being difficult to get through.
Look, I understand. Sometimes, you’re not interested in reading a dense, thousand-page novel where half the words might as well be in another language. But every time you sit down to read, you have the opportunity to push yourself, to improve your knowledge or to break emotional walls.
Reading should be enjoyable, not trivial. Someone has poured their heart and soul into that book lying on your desk and something earnest between those pages that to be understood. You should have a better reason for not finishing a book other than ‘I thought it was too difficult.’
If you’re having trouble reading difficult works, make a plan, figure out what you want to gain from that book and have at it. Once you climb the ladder once, you’ll never have to climb it again.
And please, please don’t give up just because it’s ‘too hard’.
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Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen