Friday, May 11, 2007

In Praise of Bad Books

I sometimes have to fight my tendencies to be a bit of a book snob. When I see people check out nothing but celebrity biographies or Harlequin romances, I cringe a little at all the great books they may be missing. My snobbishness doesn't necessarily object to just the books themselves, because I read lots of stuff that may not be considered high literature, but more to the lack of variety in their reading. This essay from Joe Queenan says there is a place for the so-called "bad books". I read a lot of the "bad books" in childhood and adolescence, from Babysitters Club to Danielle Steel and VC Andrews and Sydney Sheldon. But if it weren't for those books, I may have stopped reading altogether. I slowly took steps up the literary ladder and today the fiction books I'm drawn most to are those that are considered literary fiction. My preference for literary fiction is not determined by the prestige factor but because the things I look for and appreciate most in my reading today--characterization, language, imagery--are things that I find more often in literary fiction. But I still read the other stuff all the time, books I don't think should necessarily be classified as bad, just different. (Note: there is sometimes a tendency to lump all genre in with the bad which I don't agree with). I read lots of different things for lots of different reasons. When I want to be entertained, there is nothing like a so-called "bad book". The literary fiction I read may not necessarily be as entertaining, but I find in the special cases to be more moving. I think there's a place in everyone's book life for both.

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