You know all those reading lists going around? The ones that claim these are the “1000 Books You Absolutely Must Read”? Last week, I finally stumbled upon one list that actually got the right point across. It’s called “28 Books You Should Read If You Want To,” and was posted on The Millions about a month ago. They key here is, “if you want to.”
The author, Janet Potter, points out something great about all these lists: “These lists serve a purpose if you’re Jay Gatsby furnishing a library or if you’ve, say, just arrived from Mars and have no knowledge of Earth books. What they miss is that one of the greatest rewards of a reading life is discovery.”
This all got me thinking about book recommendations, what you really have to read, and how much it even matters. For me personally, I rely heavily on recommendations from people who I know share similar interests. Although when I was younger, I tended to wander into a bookstore and choose the longest novel I could find whose cover was also appealing (this, to me, meant that a book wouldn’t end as soon). And my favorite book? It was required reading for school, and that’s the only reason I found it. But part of the problem with these “100 Novels Everyone Should Read” is an inherent sense of importance; if you don’t read these books, then you’re not a real reader, or your choice of books isn’t as good as these. I think it’s far more important that you just find a book you enjoy, whether it’s on a list of classics or best sellers or something obscure no one’s ever heard of. You’re reading, and that’s the best part.
Ultimately, this is about reading, and encouraging more people to pick up a book. Hopefully that person finds a book they like which leads them to another one, which gets their friend to read it, and then they find another book, and on and on and on. As the list suggests, “You should just keep reading.”
-Serene Hakim, intern