As I sit at my desk, helplessly watching as sheafs of paper cascade onto the floor, furiously taking notes on a pile of books tall enough to make an excellent nightstand, and audibly moaning as I turn the 250th page of the day, I begin to resent the things I am forced to read. It used to be that I would simply read what I wanted to, when I wanted to. Spot would run, Dick and Jane would do whatever they did, and I wouldn’t have to write a paper at the end. Now I have books big enough to make my shelves sag and my back ache. I keep on letting the resentment grow and grow until at last I find what I was looking for: the simple nugget of pure truth and beauty that made it all worthwhile.
That’s all it takes honestly, just one point at which I’m forced to sit back in my chair and go ‘whoa.’ Surprisingly, those nuggets often come from the most unexpected places, like from my book on literary/art criticism since Plato. It is an agonizing 1534 page, 8-pt font, dual-columned monstrosity, but on each page there are these gorgeous and thought-provoking nuggets that I can’t help but fall in love with. The sad truth is that the class I got the book for is a requirement for my major, and I would never have found them if I hadn’t waded through dense language and unbearably small text to find them. The only reason I read it was because I was told to, but this is a case where that resentment for having assigned reading turned into utter gratitude.
Often the claim is made that you should be allowed to focus on what interests you, and the assigned readings classes give end up keeping you from reading what really interests you. If left to my own devices, I’d probably never read a novel again and just focus on poetry and drama. The fact is, though, that the best books I’ve ever read are the ones I didn’t want to read at first. Please note that in 6th grade I read Tale of Two Cities for fun and loved it, but I think it’s important to note that by reading things you initially wish to abandon you expand your literary horizon. You become a jack-of-all-genres. Just as it is important to learn to appreciate the other arts, like painting, sculpture, music, etc., it’s important to learn to appreciate all literary forms in order to round out your idea of what it means to be an artist.
I’m not saying that you should no longer read what you love; I’m never going to stop reading plays. I am simply saying that complementing what you love with what you’ve yet to get to know is the best way to augment your understanding of the form you only THINK you know. I was asked to read the Bible for class as well as a majority of the Greek classics, and when I returned to my favorite plays, I found that the allusions became clearer, meaning became deeper, and the works were suddenly rooted in a rich theatrical history. The more I read, the better I am at reading. Practice makes perfect, and in this case, there is so much material out there to practice with.
So though you may at times find yourself screaming “I hate this book!” before tearing your hair out and running down the street, take the time to finish it. Look closer, look deeper, look harder. Yes, there are some useless books out there, but each book you read is another book you don’t have to read again (unless you want to, which if it’s a good one, you probably will).
I absolutely agree with this. I don’t have anything smart or controversial or witty to remark other than I agree. I am often finding myself defending the value in reading things through, whether it be novels or plays or whatever else under the sum because someone is not going to regret being more well read, informed and educated. I mean, come on.