Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why I Read What I Read

As readers, most of us have been asked questions about the reasons we read what we read.  Usually, we have a stock reply and we move on with our lives.  
"It was a pretty cover."
"I like the author."
"I find the story inspirational."
Which ever was you answer, the questions are normally harmless and we move on with our lives.  However, sometimes these questions make us consider things a little bit more.

Why do you like fantasy and paranormal stuff so much?

I was asked this the other night and frankly, it made me mad.  It was asked in the tone that implied that all books about magic were silly and I guess it is what spurred this whole post.  The question can apply to any genre really and I hate this idea of people being critical of entire categories of literature, as if one is so much more valid than another.  

The majority of what I read is called paranormal, fantasy or urban fantasy.  The reason I invest so much of my time and energy into the magical genres is because it usually provides a battle to be won.  Evil is present and it can be touched and seen.  Evil is experienced in the flesh instead of it being a concept that is hard to pin down.  The bad guys in these books tend to be really bad.  Not only can they kill your entire family like a normal villain can but they can also make you watch as your soul is sucked out by a dementor.  

Another aspect of fantasy/paranormal stuff that is so appealing to me is the fact that there is always hope. I have read some of the more contemporary novels and I am somewhat disturbed by an emerging trend.  I am all for realistic writing.  I think that is important in many ways.  I don't, however, seek out the books that are sad just to be sad. You know the ones.  They end with something along the lines of "and everybody died and that is good because that's life.  Suck it up." I can see how those books can be inspiring for some and necessary for others but for me, they are too difficult to read.  I can read about death and destruction as long as there is some light at the end of the tunnel saying it is all worth it.

Fantasy/Paranormal books can also take the most mundane (haha...mundane) characters and give them power and strength.  It gives everybody potential to defeat the giant and I think that is incredibly important.  I don't want to be told that cancer or a car wreck or whatever may kill me someday.  That's too grim and if that is what I was reading, I would probably be constantly paranoid and be a hypochondriac.

I want to be told that I can have the power to bring down walls.  These books are inspiring and hopeful while often having true joy in them.  The really really good balances with the really really bad and it all works.  The battles between good and evil are epic in proportion and somehow validate to me that everything in the real world isn't as bad as it seems sometimes.  

By the way Hogwarts, I'm still waiting for my letter. It's over 12 years late now.

So what do y'all think? Why do you read the books that you do, be it fantasy, YA or whatever?


  1. I read what I like because I read to entertain myself not other people. If people want to think less of me because I enjoyed the twilight books for example what do I care. I never cared for the popularity struggle in high school and I care even less as an adult. well age wise I'm an adult but heart wise I'm more like a big kid with a beard. If people say they don't like you choice in books just smile at them and say that's nice dear. (fairy tales taught me that) Matt @ JC's Book Haven.

    1. I feel you on that popularity contest crap. I went to a college prep school and there was this silly one-upping thing going on all the time about who was being the most "intellectual" and reading War and Peace or whatever. It seems like a waste of time reading stuff you don't enjoy for the sake of trying to be better than everybody else.

      I like your attitude about it. :-)

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Now your post really intrigues me. I wrote a paper studying the hope element and I'm very it's interesting to see it play out specifically for an individual. I can see why you would favour the hopeful element of the fantasy/paranormal. It's nice to be told that there is salvation from darkness. Just out of curiosity, is there a particular reason why you favour a hopeful ending? As in, is it more of a form of escapism from the real world?

    Don't ever let anyone pull you down for reading Paranormal/Fantasy. It's just as worthwhile as any preaching "classic" there is out there and you can take a damn lot away (because I'm not taking away anything from a book written for the ladies of the 1800s about marrying the handsome rich guy or your cousin.)

    I've been very lucky in life to have never been judged for what I read. I favour a strong mix of your literary canon, but also YA, leaning towards urban fantasy/paranormal. The sad thing is, I think many don't question why I do it just because they feel like the latter would be more of a form of escapism for me, considering the fact that I do read a lot of the heavier old stuff. Which is sad. I read YA because I enjoy it just as much as I enjoy those books from a list decided upon by a group of old men. I take away just as much, if not more, from YA. I read for myself and my enjoyment and that's good enough for me. Fantastic post, Britt! x

    1. I think I favor the hopeful element in all books because in real life, we don't see the good guys win often enough. There are a lot of "rock bottoms" in life and "kicking you while you are down" but I like characters in books to be stronger than all of that. I guess that is why it is so important to me. We read these epic stories of people who have it so much worse than we can ever imagine, especially in fantasy/paranormal, but they still come out on top with something to look forward to. Books with hope give me hope in a "If they can do it, so can I" sort of way.

      I love classic literature and took a lot of courses that focused on the "masterpieces" and I appreciate them for what they are. But at this point in my life, I don't want to have to work to enjoy something. It's the same reason I don't drink IPA beer or straight scotch.

      The people in this world that like to criticize people for reading baffle me, to me honest. I don't see how reading just about anything could be considered bad. Critiquing people for reading is like saying people are crazy for drinking tap water instead of filtered water. Water is good for you, period.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Keep reading what you love and don't let people judge you based on what you read.

    There's so much stigma, and often shame, associated with certain genres. And it's horrible. Because literature is for everyone. Criticising people's taste in books is a pointless exercise, done by people who could obviously benefit from reading a good book or two themselves!

    Btw I love the use of the YOLO gif! And I feel your pain - Hogwarts' mailing service is waaaaay behind. That owl w/ our letters must have gotten lost on the way to our houses!

    1. I try to not get upset when people judge me about my reading material but sometimes you can't help getting defensive.

      I completely agree with you. Books are written because people want to tell stories. Nobody should be able to say what stories are valid and which ones aren't.

      "YOLO, say no no" That song cracks me up. I have an owl that has been living behind my house for years. So disappointing as a child to hear it and it not be carrying a letter!

  4. I've never really thought about why I read what I read before, but this is actually a really good exercise, even if I don't need to defend what I read... I know that I read what I read because I love the emotional thrills of the writing and the story, but I'd have to take a closer look at the genres I read so that I could figure it out in its entirety.

    I applaud you on your being able to put your preferences into words. You've described one reason I too love fantasy—dragons can be beaten. And that's awesome.

    1. I think sometimes we have to examine what we read and ask ourselves why it is that we do it. Not necessarily to be critical of ourselves but to see if we need to expand our horizons. It might be interesting for more bloggers to explore :-)

      Fantasy gives us the option to defeat dragons too. Our battles with beasts aren't always so tangible.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  5. What a thought-provoking topic dear. Great post :)
    I read what I read because it makes me happy. I read thriller and suspense novels cause I love anticipating. I love reading zombie | apocalyptic books because they give me a unique high! I love reading romance because I absolutely love love-stories and how they end happily. I read adventure and magical books because I believe in magic and good endings.
    Now if someone has a problem with my choice then just 'suck it up!'
    I love my books and I'm gonna read them even if the world hates me for that. I read for myself and for none other!

    1. Thank you so much!

      I'm glad that you are able to read what you enjoy. I feel like people can be pressured into books they don't want to read and that just sucks. I love love-stories too and happily ever afters make everything good :-)