“Been reading any good books lately?” This is a question I’m asked a lot, because people know I majored in English and love to read. At times, it can be a really good conversation starter; I know I’m always interested to hear about the books other people are reading.
Strangely, there are times when this simple question seems impossibly difficult to answer. If I haven’t done much reading lately, this question reminds me of that fact and makes me sad.
Other times, I over-analyze the question: what makes a “good” book, anyway? More specifically, what kinds of books does the person asking the question consider “good”? Will people judge me if I answer with the title of a detective story or a thriller instead of a thoughtful piece of nonfiction?
There are some books that I have read (and enjoyed reading) but that I wouldn’t be particularly interested in reading again. Since I’m a re-reader at heart, that tells you something about the book. Can I honestly say it’s good if I don’t want to reread it? On the other hand, doesn’t the fact that I found pleasure in reading the book the first time make it “good” on some level?
I’m not confident in my ability to distinguish “enjoyable” books from “good” books or “great” books. On some level I realize that everyone responds differently to literature and that you can honestly disagree with someone over the qualities that make a “good” book without one of you being right and the other being wrong.
I don’t judge other people for what they read or the books they love (okay, I might judge you a little if I saw you reading 50 Shades of Gray in public) so I don’t know why I’m so afraid that people will think less of me for what I read. They’re asking because they’re interested, and if I happen to be really passionate about a book that they read and didn’t care for, that’s okay.
All this rambling is not to say that I don’t want anyone to ask me if I’ve read any good books lately. (I ask my friends this question as often as they as me). It’s just a snapshot of what goes through my mind sometimes 🙂
Do you ever worry that people will judge you for a book you’re reading? How do you define a “good” book?