Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." ~~Mark Twain

I got a magnet with that saying on it from my sister-in-law this past summer. She said she thought of me when she saw it. It's hanging on my fridge at eye level where my gaze flits upon it every day. Every day I think, that quote isn't quite right. It's right in that that is how Mark Twain stated it. It's wrong in the message it sends to me. I'd rather it read "The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."

A "good book" is a matter of opinion, in my opinion. What appeals to me may not appeal to you. What I think is a good book, you may find to be a terrible book. What you think is a "good book" may be the farthest thing from my idea of a "good book".

In all that I've learned about getting boys to read (yes, boys) I've learned that you can not tell them that what they are reading isn't good. If you know a reluctant reader, is it because at one point in time they were told that the material they were reading didn't qualify as reading? Graphic novels, Captain Underpants, and Walter the Farting Dog are all books that many adults find fault with. They're "not good". Junie B. Jones and her bad grammar is also often labeled "not good". Unfortunately, a child who finds joy in these books and is repeatedly told they are "not good" may soon interpret that to mean that they don't like to read. If what they do like to read isn't good, they don't like reading. "Find something better, that isn't a good book" I heard a mom tell her kids at a bookstore. It made me cringe. I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't EVER say anything like that to a kid if she wanted them to grow up to enjoy reading.

I don't want anyone to tell me that the book I'm reading isn't "good." I don't read books just so that I can say that I have read them. I don't see the reading of a "good" book as a status symbol the way some people do. Have I read "good" books? Yes. Did I read them so that I could say I read them? Maybe, when I was a teen. Have I loved every "good" book I've ever read? No. No. No. (I still can't believe I got all the way through Anna Karenina--I didn't like any of the characters.) To me a good book is one that you get lost in. A good book is one YOU enjoy. A good book is not necessarily on the best seller list, a list of must read books, an award winner, a book lauded by critics, or a popular book club selection. A good book is one that you enjoy. Period.

But this quote is about a man. I'm not about to tell the man what he should or should not be reading. He's a man, he can figure it out for himself. But, if he's stumped, I will be more than happy to make some recommendations!

I think maybe I'll put a bit of tape over the word good on my magnet.

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