Judgy Readers

angry-stick-man

After watching a discussion video on Booktube, about readability, and reading the article that started the whole debate, I have decided to write my thoughts down on the subject.

The video link here

The article link here

So I really enjoyed watching the video, it was thought provoking. But I won’t get into her opinions. It’s the article that has pissed me off. As you may have been able to tell I do not agree with the article at all, and I will explain a little what it’s about and why I think it’s bull.

So to sum it up really quickly, in the article Ben Roth is saying that a book being considered readable should be an insult, saying “it isn’t good, but you’ll be able to finish it”. He continues on to explain that books considered readable are full of clichés and that you only need to skim them to be able to absorb them. He also says that because of this people are writing shorter and shorter articles, and professors are choosing shorter books to study. Ben starts and finishes the article by comparing books and authors he doesn’t feel are up to snuff to big name “drinkable” beer with no substance.

Ugh. This article comes across to me as elitist, pretentious, and snobby. You have no idea how much it frustrates me to sit there while he shits on everyone else’s reading habits, preferences, and choices…because those books aren’t up to your standards, REALLY!? First of all who cares what people read; it’s none of your damn business. Second of all people read for different reasons. Not everyone is sitting there pondering a book for a month to have long philosophical discussions. Lastly not everyone is at the same level as you and your scholar buddies.

A lot of people genuinely have crazy, busy lives. Whether it be work, kids, and/or community. Actually it doesn’t really matter what they find more important than your pre-approved reading list. People don’t always have time to sit and savour a novel. For those busy people that wish they had more time to read, those “readable” best-sellers are a great way for them to get a little reading in. You could even call it a gateway book to better reading if you want.

Realistically that’s not the point: people read to escape and relax as well. Yes, you can learn from reading. I love coming away from a book that made me think, and I feel like a better person afterwards. But is that all I read, no….hell no. Sometimes I read graphic novels, Stephen King, YA – whatever I happen to be in the mood for. And if Donna Tart (who writes a book about every decade, so clearly she’s just pumping them out for the pay cheque) and Zadie Smith aren’t considered substantial enough for you, Mr.Roth, then guess what? Most of my reading wouldn’t. And you know what I wouldn’t change a thing.

My final thoughts for Ben Roth would be to mind your own damn business. People are going to read whatever they want, and you know what? They SHOULD!

Ok rant over, I have now taken a deep breath and want to know your opinions. Do you agree with me? Did you read the article and not come away as offended as me? Let me know down below.

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6 thoughts on “Judgy Readers”

  1. Objectively, I think I get how “readable” can sound negative. Like if I went to someone’s house for dinner and called the food “edible.” There’s probably higher praise to be had in both situations. :p

    And, interestingly, I just finished reading Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, which uses statistics to analyze trends in writing and reading, and the author did actually find that the trend is for the most popular books (think New York Times bestseller list) have a decreasing grade/reading level. So, for instance, he claims that the percentage of #1 New York Times Bestsellers with a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Lower Than 6 was 11% in the 1960s, 3% in the 1970s, 8% in the 1980s, 24% in the 1990s, 40% in the 2000s, and 48% in the 2010s (so far). The number of “complex words” (which he takes awhile to define) has also been decreasing in bestsellers.

    But is this “bad?” I have no idea. I agree with you that people have different reasons for reading. Sometimes I just want entertaining. And sometimes I want something complex. And there’s no guarantee that being “readable” with “simpler” language means a book isn’t saying something interesting. In general, I think encouraging reading is a good thing, and I wouldn’t go around shaming people for not reading bigger books with “harder” vocabulary and sentence structure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very interesting, and I can’t say I’m overly surprised. People’s tend to read casually at a much lower reading level than what would be expected. I didn’t know the numbers or that it had changed over the years. Thanks for bringing that up for me. I also don’t think its always possible for people to only read harder literature. Well for me anyways sometimes I need a bit of break. I find it more interesting to be maybe more of a well rounded reader than just maybe a well read one. But really it’s to each their own, I think people should read whatever makes them happy, at least they are reading. Thanks for the comment, gave me something to think about 🙂

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    2. Interesting info about the Flesch-Kincaid stats. Personally I think some of this shift might be due to the increase in popularity of young adult fiction among adults. I’m in my 30s and I read a lot of YA because there’s so much creativity and positivity in them right now.

      Liked by 1 person

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