It’s true. I’ve never picked up even one of these beloved books. And I’ve never watched even one of the films in full from start to finish. I have seen many 20-minute portions of each film—just enough to know the characters and the frame.
For those of you who love Harry Potter, please know, my lack of engagement doesn’t diminish your admiration in the least. Each of us have books and stories and characters that speak to the deep places in our being. I wouldn’t ever suggest Harry Potter hasn’t had significant influence upon its generation of readers, both young and young at heart. There may even come a day when I delve into the series. Who knows?
But all of us have books that we’ve simply never read, for one reason or another. Maybe you don’t read history or mysteries or biographies, even though there are phenomenal reads in all three. The odd thing is that what we choose to read is personal, swayed by our interests and experiences. So when someone hasn’t read a certain title that has been meaningful to us personally, this isn’t an act of villainy on their part. It’s a reflection of that individual’s world.
Now, I’m all for reading widely. I think it’s extremely important to read from a variety of authors, genres, cultures, and eras. This is why I love and appreciate exuberant recommendations for future reads.
What I don’t love is book shame.
Have you ever experienced this after admitting you’ve never read a certain book? When someone responds with a wounded gasp, and you feel a bit of embarrassment? It’s like you’ve been caught and accused for being less-read than you should be, although I’m not sure who’s tracking the standards for that designation.
If any books are sure to be on the checklist it would have to be classic novels. These books full the must-read lists. And since many classics are assigned in high school and college lit courses, people often express shock when you’ve not read something they have, usually whatever book they only read because it was assigned way-back-when. (My mental rebuttal to these shamers: But did you willingly choose to read Crime and Punishment on purpose?!? Because I did that, just a few years back, with my mom. It was an accomplishment.)
Here’s the thing. I love to read. I love everything about books and stories, ideas and learning. So book shame is not only frustrating, but silly considering the sheer number of titles available to read. Even if you’ve read more than me, you’ve not read all the books either, and it’s likely I’ve read a bunch of books you’ve not read. So really, there’s no reason to stoke the fires of book shame. We can be free to just enjoy books, in all their glory.
Isn’t that nice?
Such is the sentiment behind our fall Persuasion podcast series, titled What We Make of Ourselves. In this series, we’re talking about book shame, and the personas we craft, and the lessons we can mine from great reads. And we’re discussing all these things—and more!—as we host a read-along of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. You don’t have to read along to listen in, but we hope you will! Hop over to our Persuasion site for the details, including the reading schedule and listening links. Let me know if you have any questions—I’d love to hear from you!
Here’s to the joy of getting lost in a great book and hashing out all the details with fellow readers.