Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Picking Books was Never All that Complicated

Lately I've been seeing a lot of articles and proselytizing in my social media about how I should read. To date I've been told:

I should read only:

  • people of color
  • people who have the same social mores
  • people with my political beliefs
  • minorities
  • books that challenge my preconceived social norms
  • books by trans-gendered individuals


I should not read books:

  • by straight, white men
  • by racists
  • by imperialists
  • by colonialists
  • by people with different political / social beliefs
  • by people with the same political / social beliefs
  • written before 1999 / 1980 / 1970 / 1950 / 1900 . . .
  • where the protagonists is good and the antagonist is bad.  
  • where morality is simple
  • by Christians
  • by religious people
  • by anti-religious people
  • by atheists
  • that are liked by the wrong sorts of people


So here's my response to all of that self-important gate-keeping that people have been doing lately. 

Dear Friends and Strangers,

I realize that you think that by telling me to not read people unless they meet an approved standard that you're making the world better, but you're not. Your approved reading lists are the sort of group thinking that stifled creativity and intellectual freedom throughout our history and I will have no part of it. Instead I'm going to do like good readers have been taught to do for generations: I'm going to read the summary on the back of the book and decide if it sounds like something I might like to read. Then, if it does, I'm going to buy it and read it. And if the author is really good and the book is fun I'm going to find more books by that author and read them too. 

That means that there are going to be times when I'm reading books that were written by imperialists, racists, or people who have the same social mores as me because if a book is good that's all I really care about. I'm not going to stop reading authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, W. Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, Robert E. Howard, Peter F. Hamilton, Samuel R. Delany, r.a. lafferty, Allen Ginsburg, Abbie Hoffman, and Charles Bukowski because they might not fit into the current standard you're espousing. 

I know, I know, some of you are disappointed that I'm going to read racists like Howard and Lovecraft but I don't care. They wrote good books and they're stuff is still excellent nearly a hundred years after they wrote it. They'll survive your disappointment too, and so will I.

Now if you don't mind I'm going to go back to reading the Plutonium Bombshell by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem because it's been a blast so far. Later,

Charlie

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