I once found myself in a creative writing workshop, trying, and most likely failing, to improve my writing overall. The speaker went around the table asking for books that had inspired us to want to take the class. As the turns moved along the table, I heard books like, A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Heller‘s Catch 22, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and so on. When it came my turn I could have gone with Charles Dickens‘ David Copperfiled, of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, I was very much tempted to but doing so would have been a lie, I have never read a Dickens book or even heard of Mr. Fitzgerald prior to the trailer for Baz Luhrmann‘s Adaptation for the sliver screen. So even as tempted as I was, I told the truth. The reason for my being there had began when I read the first book to ever make me love reading, the first time I appreciated my imagination and the first time I really wondered if it could be possible, to put the lives I had created in my head on paper, and make them eloquent enough for someone else to understand and possibly love them? That book was Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
The response I got was laughter around the table, and comments like how it wasn’t a real book and so on. I laughed along understanding somewhat how they could feel superior to me at that moment and to the book. And then I defended the book, vigorously. This was over a year ago.
Today, I have read read well over 300 books since picking up, Fifty Shades of Grey, some of which where the books mentioned around that table, all of which thought me something about myself, and helped me grow in a way.
Since the publication of the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, young Adult fiction is risen like a loaf of bread on steroids. Then the book was made to film and, well I’m not sure where I’m going with the bread analogy, but it grew even bigger and began to sallow people. Bear with me. The film industry gave this genre tentacles to reach young people that the book had missed previously. Today, YA book’s are usually always expected to be made into a movie if the book is popular enough.
It’s common practise for seasoned book readers to look down on certain types of books and judge their readers and writers. But books like Fifty Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and most recently John Green‘s The Fault on Our Stars, lure young people to the forum of literature regardless of genre. In my experice the films actually entice its viewers to pick up the original format. Though not all the books I have mentioned I have actually read or even seen its film of, they all have one thing in common they ignite in those unaccustomed to reading a curiously for books and that can only be good thing.
I grew up in Africa, where books were not seen as indulgence for the imagination but a chore, you were required to memorise words in the rare book or two to pass an exam. It is a special thing you get when you read a book you love, everyone should be allowed to chose the book that helps them achieve this escapism without judgement. It could be a starting point for them into other authors or not. Regardless, the ‘tastism’ in book readers is one that confounds me most times, and at the end of the day isn’t every book an artifact, and art is inherently subjective?
Note: The word ‘tastism’ does not at this point exist. Like most ‘isms’ it implies to the intolerant and or discrimination of taste.