Pleasure Reading

I read for pleasure. There, I’ve said it. I’ve admitted it.

Strange thing is, I don’t know why I need to admit it. Yet, I regularly feel like I do. For some reason, I must justify choosing books that promulgate fun over enlightenment. I’m not alone in this, either. Especially fellow romance readers. We love our books, but there’s a sort of secret shame to it.

I don’t know why.

When was the last time a group of people felt guilty going to see Transformers? Disappointed, maybe, but guilty? Seriously, two hours of explosions and special effects didn’t leave them any smarter. Yet, that’s totally okay, and no one who saw the movie feels the need to explain why. They went for fun. Some eye candy, and on to the next thing.


So why do so many people that read feel the need to justify pleasure reading?

Perhaps this goes back to high school English class when so many of our teachers literally killed really great books. I remember reading The Scarlet Letter for enjoyment two years before we read it in English class. It wasn’t something I would’ve actively sought out again given how heart-wrenching it was, but I had enjoyed it. It made me think, and it made me cry.

Then my English teacher got a hold of it. Suddenly, the rust on the wrought iron fence was imbued with all sorts of symbolism. I went from liking the book to being ecstatic for the day we were done with it. On my second read through with my English class, I didn’t care about any of the characters or their struggles. It was read, regurgitate, repeat.


That same class, the teacher was chastising some of the lower performers in the class and asking them what it would take to get them engaged. I remember the ring-leader of this group asked why couldn’t we read something like The Stand. My ears perked up. If ever there was a book laden with symbolism, a true epic struggle between good and evil…

But that wasn’t in the curriculum. The teacher never approved it, and we plodded on through Shakespeare and whatever else was “required” reading.

Makes me wonder if this is where so many people had their love of books squashed. While there’s a lot in Shakespeare, Golding, and Hawthorne, there’s also a lot in Tolkien, King, and maybe even Patterson. Given the current popularity of the latter authors, it truly surprises me that they don’t get more time in a classroom. These books are all written for a modern audience (okay, maybe no Tolkien, but I bet his work would still spark interest).

If something is interesting, there’s a higher probability you’ll learn something and keep that learning with you beyond the test. Interest is powerful, and for some reason, we horribly underestimate and discredit it.

Perhaps too many people had English teachers that didn’t engage them and began to associate reading with my second trip through The Scarlet Letter. Reading was a chore, a task to do so a paper could be written before we scampered off to do what we wanted to do, like watch a movie.


If that’s how reading is perceived, I can understand why people don’t get pleasure reading. Why it seems odd that we’d open up a romance novel and snuggle onto the sofa to have a lovely afternoon read.

This comes back to a different question though: should every book we read have the same depth my English teacher assigned to The Scarlet Letter?

I’m going to say “no”. There’s no reason why everything we do must be learning endeavor. Maybe it’s just me. I strongly dislike most literary books. Give me a romance, epic fantasy, or space opera. Give me characters I can cheer for and an ending that leaves me satisfied. Basically, give me a good movie or mini-series between the pages of a book.


What do you think? Do you pleasure read? Why or why not? Do you hold movies and TV shows to the same standards as books? Maybe you had a really awesome English teacher that gave you a totally different experience?



12 thoughts on “Pleasure Reading

  1. I read A LOT and always only for pleasure, I’ve been a teacher and yes I agree with you a lot of the way reading is handled in schools turns kids off. I now homeschool and have four lil book-addicts and I like to think this is because they’ve never been forced to read anything but always been encouraged to read what they enjoy. Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important subject 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes feel like in the quest to educate kids, we crush their love of learning.

      There are checklists and did the kid say what we needed to hear to pass them.

      I learned how much I came to hate English class and learned to separate it from reading.

      Makes me think…


  2. I think there are a few different things going on here (for the record: I’m coming at this from the perspective of an English PhD and college level instructor):

    Most high school level English is focused more on introducing basic level conscious analysis and close reading, both useful skills, but do a fairly poor job of acknowledging that. They tend to come out of the Structuralist and Semiotics schools of literary theory, which were popular in the 1970s, I suspect in part because both are heavily focused on close reading and some degree of simple analysis. (Personally, I’m not a fan of either theory, even as I acknowledge that they are the foundation of the routes that I favor.)

    K-12 English is very different from other forms of reading (and college English, where there’s also huge difference between composition and English), mostly due to external forces (e.g. state requirements) and the purpose of school (which is, arguably, not to engender a love of reading, but rather to teaching critical reading which is an incredibly important skill). A lot of high school teachers (depending on the district) are hobbled–one reason I could never teach at that grade level.

    Personally, I study and write mostly about pop culture literature (my dissertation was on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and J.K. Rowling; the follow up book was about Jack Williamson, Pratchett, Rowling, Charlaine Harris, and Charles de Lint), but to really “get” a lot of the depth that’s going on in those pieces, a background in the older stuff is necessary. The older, “classic”, material also still speaks to audiences, but perhaps that element isn’t emphasized enough. Text choice is also, I think, and issue. In high school, for instance, the only Shakespeare I was exposed to were his tragedies and histories (Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar), none of his comedies.

    All that said, most of what I read in fiction is fantasy in one form or another, I think Shakespeare is a sort of third rate playwright (hey, the Restoration audiences agreed), and I find the 18th to 19th century “classics” to be largely dull and uninteresting, with some exceptions (Dickens, Poe).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I learned a few things about high school English from your reply!

      I need to think more on your response, but my first thought is why is critical thinking and enjoying literature not the same?

      I don’t understand much about teaching methods, and I was not an English major, but it seems so counterproductive to crush kids’ love of reading to teach critical thinking.

      It also seems really hard to teach kids critical thinking on 200 year-old works (or even 50 year-old works) unless they are also immersed in the history of the time. To understand the innuendo and messages requires a knowledge of the times.

      For example, given the food shortages of the time, and the lines Shakespeare gives about Romeo and food, audiences of his time would’ve seen Romeo as the villain.

      Like I said, I need to do more thinking. You make interesting points.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Personally, critical thinking & enjoying lit are the same thing, for me. 🙂

        I agree on the history, etc. I’m not a fan of Structuralism & Semiotics except insofar as they inform more useful theories. (I favor New Historicism myself, interpreting via historical context). But, that takes a fair bit of background knowledge & research, Structuralism & close reading just take the text itself.


  3. Our middle school English teacher let us watch the Star Wars movies and study them. The class were super interested, much more than they were in Shakespeare! As a result, I tend to analyse the plot and characters of TV shows and movies in the same way that I do books. I also give up on TV shows the same way that I do a book if it loses my interest.
    As for reading: I’m not a fan of most literary works either. Give me fantasy any day though. I love to read something light and fun, with a good adventure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a sixth grade teacher that read to us everyday. She never asked us questions about what she read to us; she just read it. That’s how I first encountered “Flowers for Algernon.” I think she fired reading for pleasure for me.

    But in later years, I was often reading for pleasure while the class droned along, reading aloud. I had already read what they were reading but I kept track of where they were. When I was called on, I would read my piece, and then resume my pleasure reading. My teachers became aware of my habits and began giving and recommending books. I owe those teachers for encouraging my covert my love of reading.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. I read a lot, as much as I can, really, for pleasure. When I’m not writing, I’m stay-at-home-dadding, so I spend a lot of time kind of hyperaware of everything going on around me. I’m sure most parents understand; it’s all very intense, very active, *ALL THE TIME*. So, reading is an escape, a way to look away, that I can’t get from TV or movies. It’s nothing snobbish, as I’ve been accused, but I’d much rather sit with a book than with a TV show. It’s really just survival sometimes. 🙂

    Most of what I read for pleasure is fiction, though I’d reading a book about baseball history now. The nonfiction I read is mostly research for my writing. While I’m really passionate about it, it’s not the only thing in my life.

    My teachers, heroes all of them, really pushed into me the value of literature. It’s amazing how much I find I learn, even at this part of my life, by reading, and by listening to the advice my teachers gave me a hundred million years ago, or whenever it was. I find the more I read, the better my writing gets. Not surprising but it’s interesting to actually observe it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get the on all the time with kids. All the time.

      Until having them, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’d have thought people were exaggerating. Nope. It’s one of the reasons we got an iPad. That way, we can do,so,etching other than watch Peg +Cat

      Liked by 1 person

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