How I Read

by MW Cook

     Most folks are proud of the genres they read. The person who reads only ‘classics’ scoffs at the nerd who reads sci-fi. The person who reads only epic fantasy yawns at the one who reads literary fiction. I don’t understand that. I read everything.

     I enjoy Ernest Hemmingway. I enjoy Brandon Sanderson. I enjoy Tom Clancy. I enjoy Salman Rushdie. And it’s not hard to enjoy them all, if you read right.

     Books are not written to be judged anymore than people are born to be judged. With Amazon reviews and Goodreads, we’re all tempted to read things just for the joy of putting a certain amount of stars on the book. We get off on telling people how a book meets, or fails to meet, our precise expectations. But the author didn’t tell that story so you could judge it. He or she told that story to tell you something. Are you going to listen or are you going to grade him or her?

     All good stories are true, even the ones that never happened. It doesn’t matter if the story is in Paris, Randland or Arrakis. If the story is authentic, honest and true, it cannot be boring or trite or shallow. Even if it feels that way. Slow plots or heavy action or mythical critters can’t take truth, honesty and authenticity from a story.

     Life is made of many genres. Some people’s lives are fast-paced and full of strange, unique wonder. Some lives are slow and full of inner, nuanced wonder. All lives are full of wonder. And stories are, primarily, about lives.

     Give other genres a chance. Do you mostly read literary fiction? Read a sci-fi. Do you mostly read fantasy? Read something by Jane Austen. Do you mostly read Christian fiction? Read a book on Buddhist spirituality. And quit judging everything you read. Because the more you judge (books and people) the sharper your taste will grow. Until one day you will wake up and realize that you hate every book out there, because none of them can live up to your oh-so-very refined tastes.

     Don’t judge.