All readers I know definitely have their own, individual taste in books, as is the same with everything – you’re always going to have your preferences. It’s not often (if ever) you’ll come across someone who agrees with you on everything. Personally I can narrow my favourite genres down to three or four and there are certainly genres that I steer clear of, but I always find that classic literature supersedes this.
Classic literature is mostly what everyone’s made to read at school, and if you don’t like books, then I wouldn’t be surprised if being forced to read books written hundreds of years ago, put you off reading forever. There’s nothing worse than being made to read and study something you find boring, irrelevant, and dull. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are so many classics which I adore! (To Kill A Mockingbird, Moby Dick, Rasselas, Great Expectations) but for every one I love, I can think of one I do not like (Middlemarch, The Catcher in the Rye, Castle of Otranto).
When I went to university I was definitely made more aware of a ‘snobbiness’ around classic literature. Sometimes not knowing about certain books would make me feel subordinate or un-educated and so I always felt this pressure to read classic literature. I love Shakespeare; I loved studying Shakespeare, but one thing I will never pretend is that I understand half of Shakespeare’s writing. It was written 600 years ago, the language is different, the humour is different, so of course it’s going to be harder to understand. The reason I love Shakespeare is for the bits which can still be resonated with today, Sonnet 116 being a great example of this. Yes, it’s probably over-quoted but there’s a reason people still feel like it’s relevant.
I, personally, don’t love YA fiction, and that’s not to say that I hate all YA (give me a dystopian trilogy any day, or John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars), but I definitely think some people seem to think that the genre somehow has less of a right to be deemed as literature because it is ‘easier’ to read or deals with issues often a reality for teenagers. I think YA fiction should be praised for its ability to always tackle prominent issues of the time. The Hate You Give and Simon vs. The Homo Sapians Agenda are both examples of YA novels which give a voice to those most affected by the issues of now, and I’m sure a lot of empathic readers felt empowered because of it. And I think I can say with complete certainty that there will be classic books written hundreds of year ago which readers today would not be able to relate to in the slightest.
And equally, if I want to read a ‘trashy’ ‘pool-side’ romance, even if it isn’t realistic, isn’t that the whole point of reading? Using it as an escapism to find something fanatical, magical, unachievable? Reading doesn’t always have to be serious or realistic.
I definitely think that everyone should always give something a go, and there are some classics that I do think everyone should read. (Please if you haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird… go do it!!) That said, if they get 100 pages in and decide it’s not for them, then okay, that’s fair enough. Why should they waste their time reading something they’re not interested in? The whole point of reading it to enjoy yourself, it’s supposed to be leisurely and fun, not feel like a chore, which unfortunately is what’s happened to some people who say they don’t enjoy reading.
So, to sum up, read as much or as little classic literature as you like. Give everything a try, but if you don’t like it and it means you only ever read books written post 2000, then so be it. Reading should be fun and enjoyable and I would hate if anyone felt a pressure to read things they don’t enjoy. Basically, just read what you want to read.