You go into a bookstore and you see the classics selection. You browse because you feel it’s a necessity, but those titles don’t catch your interest. You pick up a book. You flip through the pages. And the guilty reader in you decides, “I’ll buy it because I should.”
You take it home and it sits there gathering dust, staring at you with accusations floating along with the dust motes – “You’ll never read me. You aren’t good enough to.”
So many people feel this way, whether they are a classic literature reader or someone who can’t get into the classics. We become filled with reader’s guilt, and end up trying to “fit in” and be the best, all while feeling like failures.
But guess what? You don’t need to feel guilty for reading what you read.
I’m a Classic Literature Reader
I used to think that I had to read classic literature to be considered a true reader, and I was one who really got into the classics. So I felt I had arrived in my reading goal. When I would pick up the latest YA book or something lighthearted, I always felt like a guilty reader.
Not everything I’ve read is top-notch literature and I’m always surrounded by a cloud of reader guilt when I read something “less” than a classic. I’m not the only one. I’ve seen person after person feel lame for reading the latest YA book instead of picking up Dickens and, of course, article after article decrying YA readers as “not true” book lovers or saying there is something wrong with them.
Still, for a while I felt that you had to love classic literature – that you had to be a classic lit reader and then one day I realized:
Not Everyone Is
In fact, I don’t like all of the classics I’ve read. Some are really boring to me, some really bother me, and so on.
I used to feel guilty when I didn’t like a classic or what people said I should. I’d hide in shame when I read a book that wasn’t touted by the “leaders” of the literary world. Then one day the epiphany came that not everyone liked the same thing.
When you go to a bookstore, you’re greeted by the beauty of the literary world – choice. You can choose to read about someone’s mad adventures through a topsy-turvy world or read the latest YA craze. You can pick up a nonfiction read on your favorite celebrity or read about a historical time period.
When you step foot in a bookstore or in a library, you’re really entering a TARDIS. A place that is infinitely bigger on the inside than the outer shell shows.
And here’s something you may not know or may know but not believe – you can choose whatever it is you want to read. There is no reason to feel shame or become a guilty reader based on a selection you’ve made.
How to Get Over Being a Guilty Reader
“Great, thanks, Lydia. Sure. You say I can do that but dude, I really can’t. I still feel guilty. So, easier said than done, ok?”
When it comes down to it, getting over your reading and book guilt is completely up to you. I can offer tons of tips, but in the end, you have to make the choice not to feel guilty for what you read and enjoy.
But, here are a few of my suggestions – take them, leave them, or create your own!
1. Stop Comparing Your To-Read Shelf to Someone Else’s.
Comparing with another is one of humanity’s biggest downfalls. If we are always comparing with someone we deem “better” than us, we’ll never be good enough in our own eyes – even when it comes to our to-read list. Stop comparing, and you’ll start stressing less.
2. Ask Yourself, “Did I Enjoy This Book?”
If the answer is yes, there’s no need to feel guilty. Enjoying a book means that you’ve had a moment in time in this busy, crazy journey we call life that was wonderful and enjoyable.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Say You Loved a Book You Thought Was Silly.
I’ve read several books I felt were incredibly silly, but you know what? I also enjoyed several books I thought silly. Sometimes a silly book is just what you need.
4. Challenge Yourself to Read Outside of Your Comfort Zone.
If you’re elitist about what you read (like I used to be), then take some time to read something you feel snobbish towards. If you aren’t an “elitist” and haven’t taken a chance to read a classic you really want to read, try it. Either way, you might just find a new favorite.
5. Surround Yourself With People Who Support Your Reading Habits.
They don’t have to read the same thing as you, but when you surround yourself with people who support you, your reading guilt will be easier to overcome.
The thing with reading is that you want it to be enjoyable, right? So make it enjoyable and stop being a guilty reader. Go ahead and set a few goals, but if you don’t meet those, there’s nothing wrong with that.
How do YOU overcome reader’s guilt?