We live in a society fraught with the concept that if you aren’t doing something a certain way, you aren’t doing it right. Or you’re racist. Or sexist. Or a general asshat. You get the idea.
The truth is, that doing anything only one way is what can really ruin you. Especially when it comes to your reading list. Many people live for Netflix and today’s most awarded films. Some enjoy music dripping with accolades. Others enjoy a good book. When it comes to human history and knowledge, there are few better sources. So the question becomes, what should you be reading? Should I only read the works of female authors to appear rounded and not sexist? Should I delve into the underbelly of the female mind?
Yes. And no. All of the above. Definitely, not really.
Here’s the thing. When it comes to a source of knowledge like literature, there are few bad ways to go about enjoying it. The only one that comes to mind is to limit yourself to just one category of work…or author. Constricting your viewpoint in this way is a truly terrible idea, and nothing will make you seem more limited than having only a few systematic works to discuss.
So what can you do? You can read everything. As we all know, the New York Times does an excellent job of cataloguing every piece of literature that is selling well. There’s something to be said for not going with the crowd, of course, but can that many people really be wrong? Most e-reader services offer free sneak peeks of literature to see if you’re interested. Capitalize on that. If you enjoy the first chapter, keep reading! You’ll have plenty of conversational pieces, and who doesn’t want to be well-read in the current hits? Have an author you like? Hit ‘em up on twitter and find out what they’re reading.
Furthermore, if you’re looking for something of historical substance, Google can be your best friend. Before you turn there, though, consider your high-school syllabus. Seriously. Remember thinking to yourself, “I don’t understand why I’m reading this?” I can almost guarantee you’ll get it now. At the very least, you’ll better understand why you don’t like what you don’t like. Historical novels and “must-read” lists are incredible for delving into the history of humanity and discovering what it is that made the world tick, regardless of who wrote it. Jane Austen, JD Salinger, Dr. Seuss–I’m serious–are all authors of the world we live in today.
The simple fact is that every author that’s ever been popular through history has appealed to some degree to a group of people that could relate. Books are so terrifically popular–even today–because they offer an experience that lasts. They offer a connection between writer and reader that strikes a chord in the way no other means of entertainment can. Male, female, black, white–the details are ultimately irrelevant. People like what they like, and there is a reason for that.
So when you’re putting together your summer library, consider reading some of everything. You can’t go wrong with a wide breadth of literature. If you want a concise offering, I recommend doing the following:
June: Read something from days past. Find a genre that you enjoy, and pick something at least 20 years old.
July: Best-seller list. Find a book, written by anyone, that interests you off of today’s best-seller list.
August: Best-seller list. Find a book, written by the exact opposite of your previous author, and enjoy every page.
If you’re a voracious reader, double the number of novels. Two for each month, and go from there. Read everything. Absorb, enjoy, and develop. You can’t go wrong with knowing more. Nothing exudes gentleman status more than, “I have read that! I think the plot…etc.”
Happy reading, friends!