Reading is something I find to be taken for granted, even when reports seem to indicate otherwise. What does it mean to be an average reader in the 21 st century? Does the idea imply some sort of readiness for the mainstream? What does that do for the lesser-known, but equally-deserving authors of yesterday and today? With the rapid expansion of self-publishing and rapidly growing trends in each genre, there’s more content out there than ever. How do you choose what to read next in a market so flooded it puts Venice to shame?
Well, while we cannot (and likely shouldn’t) rally together to make some great unknown work whose current job is collecting dust on shelves all across the world, an instant, overnight success, we should perhaps consider our personal goals for reading. Why do we read? Is it to open our minds to other worlds and perspectives? (Some sage once said, "There are as many ways to live as there are people in the world".) Is it to have something to fall asleep to at night or make the doctor’s waiting room easier to handle? Or is it that we know there’s an inherent advantage to being well read, in fiction, non-fiction, and everything in-between.
So where do you start? If you want to open your world to more than just the popular reads (this goes for all genres, not just fiction.)
Start simple: Read something that scares you—and by scare, I, of course, mean, intimidate. Read something that truly threatens you, even if you don’t think you’re all that interested. Is there a book your friend recommended about lion taming in the jungles of Africa and you just know you could care less about lion taming? Here’s one of the first things you’ll learn once you start to dive deep into the art of reading: Stories are rarely just about what they’re about. Moby Dick is hardly a book about whale hunting but that’s what it says on the dust jacket, and so I guarantee your friend’s lion taming book has little to nothing to do with lion taming, deep down on the inside.
Try it with one book, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, biography, memoir, whatever you’ve been putting off, and I know you can already think of one. Consider what you
could gain from giving something different a decent shot. The worse that could happen is you learn you just don’t like what that book has to offer. And even then, you’re one book closer to the one that really, surprisingly hits home.