Sometimes I Read “Fluff”

I used to be a book snob. I was 14 when I decided to read only the classics. I found a copy of A Tale of Two Cities in the English classroom and struggled my way through the work. Afterward, I read Oliver TwistGreat Expectations, and Hard Times. The summer before my first year of high school, I decided to read all the books the fictional character Matilda read at the ripe old age of 5. Jane EyreAnimal FarmThe Secret Garden. I enjoyed the challenge of reading “hard” books.

But in college, I discovered philosophy. No longer was I satisfied with reading 19th century English literature. I wanted to read philosophical treatises and academic nonfiction. I started my book blog in 2014 with much trepidation. I wanted to find a classics community, but I noticed that most bloggers read NYT bestsellers and YA. The Classics Club Blog was therefore an exciting discovery.

But, unfortunately, I had become a book snob. I didn’t want to admit that I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter books as a child. I didn’t want to be seen reading “popular” fiction. Of course, I never admitted publicly that I looked down on other readers, but I was still a book snob.

In the past few months, I have started to diversify my reading tastes. I have started to read not only contemporary literary fiction but also the occasional “light” book. I am in a program where I am required to read “heavy” literature every week. I love the challenge, but sometimes I want a break. Sometimes, I want an escape.

When you have spent years picking apart every work you read it’s hard to suddenly silence your inner critic. Book blogging and vlogging don’t necessarily help. What will my followers think if I review the most recent Dan Brown book? Should I reread Harry Potter as an adult? If I do reread the series, will my inner critic ruin the experience for me?

After a difficult day at school last month I purchased three children’s fantasy books: Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, and My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (a childhood favorite). When I took my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to the airport I was tempted to hide it from the other passengers. I am a PhD student, gosh darn it! But then I thought, “Why should I? I want to read this books.” I suddenly stopped caring what others thought about my reading habits.

I am increasingly convinced that what literary critics call “fluff” plays an important role in a reader’s life. When I want to escape – when I want to relax and enjoy a good book – I will not read Proust. I will read a childhood favorite. I might even read the recently released Dan Brown book.

I stopped being a book snob because it was impractical and silly.