You always want to read a quality book, right? But what does that look like? Quality can mean a myriad of different things in the world of literature.
To some (usually English majors), that means Fitzgerald level writing–it’s a classic or it’s not worthy! Others read for the plot, but oftentimes those books don’t have great writing. Some even give credibility to a book for it’s length (and if you’re one of them, please stop), confusing quantity with quality.
Each group forms their own posse that fights for top of the leader board.
In one corner we have beauty; in the other corner, we have intrigue. Who shall win?
None may know.
I’m one of those people that acts as the referee for the match. I like both, and I always find myself debating this with people and trying to be the mediator. Each are enjoyable for different reasons. I think Stephen King said it best:
“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” -Stephen King (On Writing)
I have definitely read books that are bland but pretty and those that are interesting but in ways, horrifically written. Take Divergent: the first of the series, it runs off of suspense, but the writing is quite poor. It’s popular for the masses though because the story is so interesting, and honestly, because the reading level is not very high. That’s not to say that readers of these books aren’t capable of more. No, not at all.
See, oftentimes people read not to become smarter by increasing their vocabulary and their knowledge of sentence structure, but for relaxation, and you can hardly relax if your brain is having to work a lot, can you?
An easy reading level also means that people can read it really quickly. People zip through them in a day or less oftentimes, and then they’re hungry for more. They aren’t huge commitments, which makes them more appealing.
However, there’s a lot to be said for beauty in words. My favorite examples are Fitzgerald (guess why I picked it earlier) and Charlotte Brontë. My favorite book is Jane Eyre, which kind of surprises me. Not a lot happens in the book, and the first ten chapters people talk about dragging on. I never really felt that way about it though. The words were strung together into poetry–and yet it was a book–so it made me forget that I was waiting on things to happen. (Mostly… I still thought about it some).
But like Stephen King says, the combination of great words and plot is gold, and when you find a book like that, never let it go. A good example of that is Tolkien, and he will never be forgotten (I hope). While some of his writing feels extraneous, he definitely keeps you reading with plot, and his words are literal poetry in places. It’s simply amazing.
So, folks, read for beauty; read for intrigue; read for both. But whatever you do, read.