Back in junior high school and high school we had to read books, but there were also books I read because I wanted to read them. I think this distinction has seeped into my unconscious and surfaced as a feeling that there are certain books that are actually Good and Good For Me, and others that are just enjoyable. The books I think I ought to like are:
- about realistic limited characters with boring jobs who struggle with their families and their powerlessness
- hard to read
- make you aware of language as language — they have prose that is beautiful and self-conscious
- are in favor of social change
- depressing — they castigate us for our hopes and strip us of our illusions
- they are unpopular — they make me feel smart and special for liking them while most people would not like them.
- morally complex
Examples: Jude the Obscure, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Magic Mountain
In contrast the books I like to read
- are titillating
- take me to amazing fantastic worlds
- are funny
- are violent
- language does the job but doesn’t annoy me or call attention to itself.
- were written recently
- full of wish fulfillment
- have cool ideas but don’t take them seriously.
- the characters are extreme — geniuses, morons, femme vitales, weirdos
Example: Gone Girl, Harry Potter, The Shadow of the Torturer.