Why No Book is a Bad Book?
No book is a bad book. Now, you may contest this statement by telling me that intrinsically bad books do exist. But let me ask you: How many times have you started a book and stopped reading it after the first few pages? “Many times,” I hear you say. And how many times have you picked up that same book again afterwards and read it from cover to cover? I’m sure this has happened to you.
Could it all be about timing, environment or our feelings of the moment? I believe so.
As a student of languages and linguistics at university, I had to read all the classics. My reading list during my first year of studies spanned works from Samuel Beckett to Victor Hugo to Simone de Beauvoir. I can tell you that I never picked up an Émile Zola novel that year to read for pleasure. When I had some downtime, I was zipping through Sophie Kinsella. No one was going to ask me to describe the running theme or depict a character. I had the sofa, my book, my cup of tea and the chance to lose myself in someone else’s relationship issues. As much as I enjoyed the French classics – and I still do – I read them at my desk, with a highlighter and a sharp mind (but still with a cup of tea). My academic years turned me into a “chick lit” consumer, and I had no problem with that.
However, those four years of reading all the French classics, along with a year in Aix-en-Provence and then five years working in Paris, eventually turned me into a fan of avant-garde literature, with an acute distaste for any mainstream bestsellers. I started to read Beckett at my leisure; I tried my hand at Pennac. I lived in Paris. I went to the cinema (MK2, not UGC) and wouldn’t have been caught dead watching a blockbuster – only the quirky arty films for me. I can’t say I understood everything I saw or read, but it came with the territory, and my new environment opened up cultural avenues where I thrived for the next three to four years.
After a while, the pace of cultural superiority began to take its toll. I craved Waterstones and their two-for-one deals on Richard and Judy’s picks. Now, I wasn’t about to admit this to anyone, but I could see my tastes or needs changing and allowed myself to follow my instincts. I let Maeve Binchy whisk me off to the Irish countryside and maybe even indulged in a Bridget Jones episode or two.
Could it be that how we feel also dictates what we look for in a book? My personal experience says yes. I won’t go into how many Nicholas Sparks books I read while pregnant or how I read Fifty Shades of Grey in one day at 38 weeks. They say pregnancy brings on strange eating habits. For me, it brought on a whole different craving for a certain type of literature.
Timing, environment and feelings all seem to play a role in the reading choices we make. Who’s to say that a book is a bad book when it fits a particular need at a particular time in a particular place? Every book that has crossed my path has found its place in my ever-changing situation. Like a best friend, your personal library adapts alongside you and helps you grow.
Now, as a first-time mum, I have a whole new literary field to discover. Do I choose The Hungry Caterpillar or The Gingerbread Man?