Thursday, March 17, 2011

Read what you love, love what you read.

When asked the question, "What is your favorite book?" I have an instantaneous response, East of Eden.


My answer is twofold.  

1. I respond this way because I truly love this book. It is beautiful and gripping, massive and meaty, the characters are flagrant and fantastic. Cal Trask is my favorite book character of all time. His troubled soul just yearns to be loved by his father. He is so troubled and wounded, always asking the question "Why am I so bad?" Ah, I just want to melt into the pages, go take Cal's hand, and tell him that it will all be alright. I love him. And the story is complex, yet sets out to ask a simple question: are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? Oh wait, that is from Wicked the Musical, but the gist is essentially the same.

But... 

2. I also answer this way because I know this is a book that people won't scratch their heads, raise an eyebrow at, or perhaps ask the question, "Seriously? You are how old?"  So to avoid these undesirable responses to my favorite book, I say East of Eden.

However...



The reality is that if it weren't for James Dean's portrayal of Cal in the movie version of East of Eden, the book would probably have never passed on my radar. This is because I enjoy a very specific type of book. I always have. And that is the young adult, romance, fantasy, adventure novel.

I enjoy the simplicity of young adult. The stories are not obstructed with too many literary elements or really deep concepts. Sometimes the writing itself is actually pretty dreadful -- hello, could Jacob do anything other than grimace? But it doesn't matter that Stephanie Meyer's descriptions are trite, because the story is there. For me, the story is what matters.

Since really admitting that I would prefer to read a book called City of Bones to a classic like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I have read a lot of books. Some are great, some are awful, and some are awfully great. Though at times I shade my book on the el so that my seat partner won't look over and see the words vampire or werewolf, I have learned a lesson about reading. For years I read very little. This is because I thought that I wasn't supposed to like the books that I did. So, I would try to read something that I had no interest in -- the result was countless hours spent watching Lost on my laptop.

But something changed, for me and for everyone else. It is a book called Twilight. This book series revolutionized young adult fiction. This statement comes with no sound proof and happens to be an over exaggerated opinion, but I think it is reasonable. Twilight made it okay for people who are not in their preteens to read a book about love and vampires. And since Twilight, countless of other books and series have come about that fit into this category.

Now I read all of the time. I love to read because I have finally committed to reading the types of books that I enjoy. I have abandoned that stigma that reading has to be about proving something. It doesn't. I can choose to read Across the Universe, a book about cryogenically frozen people on a space ship in the future, while Roommate Cousin chooses to read Brother's Karamazov. Very different books, but we both enjoyed them.

What am I getting at?



Not everybody enjoys the same type of book. Fortunately for us, we don't have to. Our world is not limited to books about penguins. Our world (like our books) is multi-faceted, filled with an unlimited amount of things people can choose to like or dislike. Just because it might not be popular or savvy does not mean you cannot love it the same. So, if you want to learn all of the elements on the periodic table -- do it. If you want to have every countries' flag memorized -- do it. If you want to claim Twilight as your favorite book, don't let anyone stop you.

Don't be ashamed. 

Read what you love, love what you read. 
Live the life you want to live.

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