Up For Discussion- Feeling Bad For Reading What You Enjoy

Yesterday, I saw a link to an article (source: Dear Author) that really got me thinking.  Brenna Clarke Gray, a teacher, wrote an article for Huffington Post calling for readers to stop apologizing for reading what they like. I love what she has to say on the matter:

You should not apologize for what you like to read. The person you are apologizing to can only fit into one of three categories:

1. He or she shares your joy.
2. He or she doesn’t give a good goddamn.
3. He or she thinks less of you for what you read in which case don’t apologize to that person because he or she is clearly a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your obeisance.

Number 1 requires no apology. Number 2 requires no apology. Number 3 neither requires nor deserves! an apology.

So what, then, do you do when someone you respect or even admire, mocks your choice of reading material?  The first time I really felt bad about what I read was in my 9th grade lit class.  We had a list of required reading for the semester, and in addition, we were to read additional books of our choice.  See that last bit?  Of our choice. At that time, I devoured Harlequins, fantasy, and sci-fi.  That’s it.  That’s pretty much all I read.  Back then, I read even more voraciously than I do now. I didn’t have a 60+ hour a week job, no puppies, no ponies, no responsibilities.  I lived for my mid-week trip to the local bookstores with my mom, where I would snap up the latest releases from my favorite authors.  I was looking forward to that class, because I loved to read, and I figured it would be an easy A.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher showed distain for my book selections.  She wrote condescending little notes at the top of my papers that I shouldn’t waste my time reading such tripe.  I was embarrassed.  Then I was pissed.  I read more books than 99% of the population, and this lady was going to make fun of what I read? I am a person who tries to avoid confrontations, and back when I was younger, I was so shy that I rarely spoke in class.  So after stewing about those nasty notes, I decided to alter my choice of reading material.  Good-bye, tame Harlequins, I would not be reading you for this class.  Hello, John Norman, you naughty creator of GOR.  You , I will read.  And Sharon Green?  Hello, Terrilian series and Jalav, Amazon Warrior series.  Yes, I will read you, too, because I know that the teacher will hate you all. (She did, but I still got an A)

I was fortunate that my mom encouraged my reading, and she didn’t really care what I read.  This made it even more puzzling that a stranger would feel the need to show disapproval of what I read.  I thought that the goal of the class was to encourage reading.  My bad.

Today, I don’t care what people think of my choice of books.  If they think that I am wasting my time reading about zombies or unicorns or fluffy pink bunnies, whatever.  Those are not the people I choose to spend my time or energy on.  I continually strive to make new connections with people who enjoy reading, without passing judgment, and those are the people I will try to form friendships with.

Has anybody ever made fun of what you read?  What did you do about it?

16 thoughts on “Up For Discussion- Feeling Bad For Reading What You Enjoy

  • March 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm
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    Actually my wife used to make fun of me for reading light novels. She found them childish and inappropriate apparently. It got quite bad and became a huge bone of contention between us. It was resolved by having her read Trinity Blood, she still dosent like them, but understands now why i like them.

    I think that when you’re in a situation where someone is hating on something you like you need to find out why they’re hating it. If it’s because of a misunderstanding on the material, you can usually resolve it. they may still think it sucks, but they can at least learn why you like it and stop making you feel bad for reading it.

    If they’re just hating for hating sake, your better of just ignoring them and moving on

  • March 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm
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    oh, no! I love light novels! I wish there were more available in English. I’m glad you were able to come to a compromise.

    Thankfully, Dean reads comics and sci-fi, too, so he has never made fun of what I’m reading. The romances he doesn’t get, but he never makes fun of them.

  • March 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm
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    Amen! I was in the exact same situation when I was younger. As the only reader in my entire family, I was considered “eccentric” but they generally left me alone.. Thankfully my parents let me live at the local library and didn’t discourage me but it was a lone habit that’s for sure! Now I have a great boyfriend who doesn’t mind my reading… in fact… he loves it b/c he can play his video games while I read and no one gets mad at the time. He’s such a sweetie cuz he let me take over the house w/ my books and even built me bookcases :)

  • March 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm
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    @erinf1 – my dad wasn’t a reader and he didn’t understand the appeal of books when I was a kid. Now that he’s retired, he’s discovered audio books and has even started reading (better late than never, right?)

    Dean is very understanding of my reading addiction. Then again, there’s not much he can say with all of those comics of his – lol

  • March 3, 2013 at 8:22 am
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    Thank you for saying it out loud. I know (or rather knew) a few people who made fun of my reading. Yes, reading period. Of any kind at all. They didn’t like that I read so much and took turns not letting me read. These were my former roommates, I lived with them. Can you imagine that? It was a nightmare but I couldn’t leave because it was difficult to find an economical place near my workplace and I took a long time and many trips to final this one. So I was really glad when I took up an opportunity in my hometown and exited out of there. I tried ignoring them or laughing it off because there was really nothing else that I could do since I lived with them.

  • March 3, 2013 at 8:26 am
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    @Pragya – That’s just petty and mean-spirited. I’m so glad you were able to get out of there! I have been fortunate that the people who really matter in my life have been supportive of my hobby.

  • March 3, 2013 at 11:38 am
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    Thankfully I had those who supported my love of reading, but couldn’t care less what I read. Thankfully my passion is strong enough that I can look at these opinionated snots and think pfft. It will always happen, even when you are forty..just read on my friend and let them think what they will!

  • March 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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    I had a 12th grade English teacher do something similar. He said all fiction was garbage, and then threw Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton in the trashcan in front of the whole class. He went on about how SF and Fantasy especially were worthless for all sorts of reasons. I was ready to argue with him in class, but I was also too tame and held my hand up. He refused to give the floor to anyone.

    Then he went to have us read poetry the rest of the semester. *rolls eyes* A large chunk of poetry is fiction, and a chunk of it is esoteric to the average reader. You either know what the author intended or the poem speaks directly to you. If 1 of those 2 things aren’t going on, then the poem isn’t all that interesting or useful.

    Anyway, if you’re reading, and doing so often, then you are ahead of the curve for most folks. Don’t apologize for your reading tastes.

  • March 3, 2013 at 4:04 pm
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    The only one I remember is when I was in school and we were suppose to read a book then write about it of our choice and the book I choose was different then other people’s and I got a bad grade because my teacher held a scowl on her face the entire time – I believe the book contained death in it, wasn’t very joyful.

    Other than that, my husband sometimes gives me a hard time for reading romance novels, we actually fought about that subject on a few occasions. I think he finally came down recently.

  • March 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm
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    Yup it’s a sad world when people are looking down on other people for READING! My family doesn’t understand why I love to read so much. Mostly my brother…he doesn’t know why I like reading romance (the comedy of course the smitten parts are a plus ^.~ )until I got him a romance on audio book for him. Not only did he liked it he listen to the whole series on audio book.

  • March 4, 2013 at 12:05 am
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    Yes, people make fun of me for reading, and liking, Twilight all the time. They tell me I need to read better books. The thing they don’t understand is that if it hadn’t been for Twilight, I wouldn’t read at all, or hardly at all, now. I just tell them that they’re entitled to their own opinion and I am mine. I’ve learned to ignore them and just be happy for myself.

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:33 am
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    @Jenni – Twilight isn’t my cup of tea, but do you know something? I give props to that series and 50 Shades of Gray (another series I’m not interested in), because those books got non-readers to pick up a book. It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read and you love doing it!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:35 am
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    @Quimbayai – Good for you for sticking to your guns and even converting another reader! That’s how we got my dad reading; first he listened to audio books, and now he reads eBooks. I never thought that he would be interested in reading!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:37 am
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    @Lily B – I am still mystified about teachers giving kids grief for reading. Isn’t that the goal in education? To encourage literacy??

    Dean kids me about some the romances I read, but it’s more for some of the silly covers and plot descriptions. Heck, even I have to laugh at a few of them!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:40 am
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    @nrlymrtl – Ah! He threw away Jurassic Park??? One of my favorite teachers in 8th grade got me hooked on Crichton by lending me a copy of Congo. So grateful to her for introducing me to such a fun author.

    And, wow, again I can’t believe how some teachers actually discourage reading. That is SO wrong.

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:42 am
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    @Kimba – you read so many different kinds of books, too. I love your blog and I’m so glad your love of reading was nurtured by people you care about and who care about you.

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