How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?

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Literary Blog Hop

This week’s blog hop from The Blue Book case is:  How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?

This is an interesting question, and one I think about a lot, as I would like my stepdaughter to become someone who gets as much joy from reading as I do. My mother always read to us when we were little, and there were always books around the house. I believe a lot of them came from various clubs she would sign up for and then they’d send you a book every month or so. Maybe it was one of these clubs that sent these teeny little abridged versions of the classics, with some illustrations. Of course, my mother still has them in the attic, and I read them all. My father would bring novels home he had bought in the airport (he did a lot of traveling) and hand them to me.

I don’t know if any of this explains the sense I developed early on that there were a set of books out there that you were supposed to read and that I wanted to read them. When I think back, it seems like a kind of snobbery, but there it is. When I was young, I read a lot of science fiction mixed in with the classics. I remember loving Gone With the Wind and Catcher in the Rye, which I distinctly remember my Dad suggested I read. But I guess what led me specifically to literary fiction and nonfiction were the English classes I took in high school and then college. I very much liked the idea that there were something like messages to decode in literary fiction, or that they were heavier with the weight of their meaning and all the things that people had written about them than other books might have been. It’s odd to admit to this level of pleasure in conformity, but it was enjoyable to be reading the things that someone said I was supposed to read in order to become a fully cultured and literate person. Of course, then in college, it was fun to pick apart any sense that there are certain books you’re “supposed” to read.

If I wasn’t hooked already, being an English major in college and writing essays about texts is what forever hooked me on literary fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been out of college for 15 years now and I still miss sitting down to write an essay about a book. I loved the idea of being able to say something clever and original about something I had read, and that’s probably part of what drove me to begin blogging.

I think today, I like reading literary fiction because of the sense of community it brings. I like knowing that there are other people out there, some of them close and some of them far away, reading the same thing. It’s an ephemeral community, in that you don’t actually know everyone whose in it, but imagined communities are still quite enjoyable.

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Comments

  1. I like what you said about a sense of community in reading literary fiction. It is ephemeral, but I think being a part of the book blogging world brings that community in a little closer. It makes me think that even though as individuals we often feel like islands, in reality we can all relate to similar things.

  2. I loved writing essays for school too! I think because it came as natural as breathing… I love words (can't always spell them, but I love them!).

    I agree too with your comments on community. It was like a relief to find the book blogosphere!

  3. I am trying to get my three daughter 12, 14, and 17 to learn to love reading-I am happy to see the younger two are always looking at my book shelves for things to read-even their friends look at the books-I heard one of their friends ask them “Does your father really read these books?”-the 17 year old is too hooked on the internet to read

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments on picking a literary piece apart – I love discovering layers of meaning even if they were unintended by the author!

    Risa

  5. I love the sense of community among readers, too. I have now joined your community; I am a new follower!

    Here's my post for the Literary Blog Hop.

  6. L.L, Laura and Deb Nance, the book blogging world is a very nice way of making that imagined community become real.

    mel u, glad to hear you're having some success with passing on the love of reading.

    breadcrumbreads, yes, it's so annoying when people feel that the only meaning to be read from a story is what the author intended. If the author only intended one meaning for her/his story, she/he should have written an essay or not been published.

  7. I was a science major in college so I didn't have much time for English classes, which I totally regret. But the literature classes I did take in college I loved and there is something to be said about sitting down an essay about a book … I did love doing that. Maybe that's why I enjoy blogging now.

  8. preteens I didn't understand the different literary worths in books to me Moorecock,Dickens,voltaire,asterix the gaul were just books that i Wouls devour.I am the same with my 9yr old daughter, at the moment she's reading Harry potter, but she knows of & has read books by a whole range of writers.

  9. I also started blogging just to fulfill the desire to write what I was thinking about books in the same way as being an English major. It's sometimes hard holding a job around those who don't care as much about books as I do and certainly don't want to talk about them. Great answer!

  10. dragonfly419, I find actually writing about a book helps me think about it and engage with it in a way I wouldn’t without forcing myself to write. Makes sense, as I’m always telling my students that writing is really thinking.

    parrish lantern, I’m hoping that the more you get kids to read, the more they’ll eventually be able to tell the difference between different genres, and hopefully at least dabble in some of the classics.

    Olivia, luckily I have a job with a lot of other people who like to read and talk about reading, but that would be hard. Thank goodness for blogs and bloggers!

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