Two things lately had me thinking about the idea of "good" books and "bad" books — as in, good-for-you books and bad-for-you books.
First, my reading list had me feeling weighed down. I've read a great deal of heavy fiction and nonfiction this year, books dealing with systemic racism, immigration and complicated family relationships. Many have been compelling reads — more about socially conscious page-turners below! — but as people started asking for summer reads — "Something lighthearted and quick, please!" — I realized I wanted something that was just entertaining, not educating. I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic, a swashbuckling fantasy, and then The Rook, which is equal parts Thursday Next novel and Memento, and they were just what I needed. Fun and fast. Not better or worse than the serious-minded books I'd been reading, just different — and with their own thought-provoking bits.
Then, on Twitter, several of us were discussing how to get our kiddos to read beyond their comfort level. My strategy to get the kids reading something other than Wimpy Kid books all summer is to require some mom-approved "school" reading in addition to whatever else they pick. "Are Wimpy Kid books bad?" another mom asked. NOT AT ALL. They're quick and fun books my kids relate to because the characters love the same gross humor and are living through the same experiences. And that's wonderful! It makes them love reading. But, just like I make sure our summer diet includes cherries and watermelon in with all the popsicles and ice cream, I try to vary our reading lists.
I don't believe there are "bad" books, though we all have ones we don't like. I read books that make me think, and I read books that make me laugh or cry. The best books are ones that do a little of everything. Literary fiction, YA, nonfiction, fantasy, light reads, heavy reads, old favorites and authors or genres I've never considered before — if you're reading, it's a good book.
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