Read whatever the hell you want

images (4)This was going to be a post about a book, but as is often my wont I digressed and so did my post, into something completely different.

So instead of Flower Fables, which I promise to do really soon, this post is about reading, gender stereotyping and pseudo intellectuals, who think they have the right to tell everyone what they should and shouldn’t be reading.

Louisa May Alcott is perhaps most well-known for her novel series Little Women. It counts as one of the classics, and rightly so. It is usually included in girl’s classics anthologies, along with Heidi, Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden.

About three years ago I wrote a review for a so-called girl’s classic and I called it exactly that in the headline or title of my review. A few days later I got a comment on the review calling me out for calling it a girl’s classic. The gentleman in question made the point that classics shouldn’t be gender specific, indeed he himself had read all kinds of books, which were firmly placed in a stereotypical gender camp. We had a conversation, I agreed and I duly changed the title of my review.

The conversation made me wonder why I myself had used the phrase ‘girl’s classic’, despite reading any book I could get my hands on when I was younger, regardless of whether it was for girls or for boys. It really made me sit back and think about these boy and girl classic volumes I have bought for my own children, and the way they are described and placed into categories.

Lately a disturbing trend has emerged of articles written by pseudo- intellectuals who think they are the go-to example for superior readers. Shaming adults for reading YA or teen books, which isn’t any different from girls being told they can’t read books written for boys and vice-versa.

Like most voracious readers I have always consumed books like other people breathe in air. No matter the length, the subject or whether it was deemed a girl or boy’s, a children’s or a book for adults.

In fact when my parents couldn’t keep up with supplying me with my drug of choice they just pointed the finger at their own bookshelves and books. This how I ended up discovering Tolkien, Wilbur Smith, Lobsang Rampa, Edgar Cayce and any fictional plus non-fictional book on World War II you can imagine.

Luckily for me my parents also loved books, a love I myself have passed on to half of my children. Unfortunately my sons think reading a book is the equivalent of Chinese water torture, but my girls make up for it with their very individual tastes and book appetites. Everything from high fantasy, romance, urban-fantasy and chick-lit, to crime and horror. Never a dull moment on our bookshelves or on our e-readers, I tell ya.

As a child I picked what caught my interest, not much has changed where that is concerned. Even now I pick what peaks my interest, regardless of genre or sub-genre. A good story is a good story no matter which audience it is written for.

My parents never said no you can’t pick, read or buy this book, because it is a boy’s book, and neither did I with my own children. So when or why had I begun to separate classics into boy or girl?

It made me wonder whether I had inadvertently steered them away from certain books and more towards others. Or had I just subconsciously suggested books I had read and loved myself? Were other parents or people doing this because society gives everything a title and likes to put things in a box?

Maybe it’s time for boy’s and girl’s anthologies to disappear and be replaced completely by classics for kids. A collection that introduces the world of Jules Verne and Edith Blyton at the same time.

It irks me to no end when I read articles saying an adult shouldn’t read young adult or children’s books.They shouldn’t read lowbrow entertaining fiction, such as chick-lit, fantasy or romance. It tastes of elitist attitude, inverted snobbery and quite frankly a lack of open-mindedness.

Who is anyone else to say what you or I are allowed to read? Do they really think an ageist attitude towards reading material will make them look more highbrowed and sophisticated? It doesn’t. In fact reducing your reading choice to a ‘suitable age and gender’ is more likely to narrow your views and experiences of the fictional and non-fictional book world.

Don’t let blinkered articles written by someone who believes they belong to a more intellectual type of literary readership sway you from picking up any book you really want to read.

Be it Harry Potter, I read them with my children and loved every minute. I have to hand it to Rowling for creating a new generation of readers with her Potter frenzy,

Or Treasure Island, which is probably the reason for my fondness of pirates, even the ones with wooden legs and a parrot,

Any book or writer, who can convince any person young or old to actually pick up a book and read has done their job and done it well. Even the ones who aren’t the best scribes and insist vampires are sparkly or three-legged hamsters have something to do with sex.

Bookworms will understand these references, if not type sparkly vampires and three-legged hamsters plus sex into your search engine. Believe it or not the authors in question do pop up under these strange searches.

Don’t let anyone shame you into passing over a book you really want to read, make you feel uncomfortable for wanting to enjoy a story that isn’t in your age bracket or make you feel self-conscious about your choice in reading material.

If you want to read about bodice ripping kilt wearing well-endowed Scotsmen then do so. If you want to read the latest young adult teen angst filled drama do it. Read romance, dystopian, utopian, crime, horror, noir oh and definitely read any public domain material you can find (wink, wink, nudge nudge).

Don’t be boxed into a literary book corner by someone, who believes reading highbrow titles will make them seem more superior or intellectual.

Publishing houses, who once only published highbrow literary pieces have cottoned on to the fact that lowbrow fiction sells. Even highbrow readers love themselves some lowbrow books, also known as popular fiction.

Sorry to burst your bubbles oh readers of nothing but highbrow literature, but it doesn’t, not by a long shot. In fact you should carry on doing so, however you should do so without imparting your pretentious opinions upon others. Get back in your narrow box with your limited choice and stop telling everyone else why they shouldn’t read whatever the hell they want to.

I can’t even the imagine the worlds and stories I would have missed out on and might still miss out on, if I limited myself to the more intellectual side of the literary world. I enjoy the unpredictable, the impossible, the new ventures into old worlds. The fantastical, the heart-wrenching and the unbelievably improbable. From the classics to the ever emerging new ideas and the reinvention of the ancient.

Read, eat and be merry! Read whatever you want, whenever you want!

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