Quite obviously, I had finished reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. Sadly, it had taken me four days to finish it, and this is indeed a sad stat to give you since I try to finish a book in three days at the most. But I must say I quite enjoyed this epic, and this leads to the topic, Why You Should Read “Hard” Books.
Most of the people I know do not simply read the older classics that gives you headaches for fun. (Note: Please omit the author of this post who very much enjoys such things.) Even the bookworm would have their genres and the niches they like to stay in, to cuddle up inside as a safety blanket from other monstrosities like romances. Of course, that is, if romance isn’t your cup of tea like myself. Anyhow, to make my point here, you only have to reflect on your reading habit…consider how many Plato you’ve read, or epics, or even the minor prophets. Or Numbers. Actually, Numbers is not evil. My mum once gave us a math lesson from the census, which was pretty awe-inspiring…I digress once again.
But you get the point. Countless people think of themselves as being quite literate, when in fact they’ve only read the fifteenth book by Rick Riordan. No, my dear comrades, to become a true bookworm, you must read all those books that makes you nod your head.
These are the kind of books like non-fiction if you’re a fiction person, or fiction if you’re a non-fiction person. They are the Church History by Eusebius, epics by Homers and Virgils, and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. (Now, that book is evil. Positively evil. I even named one of my villains after him.) It’s the kind of books that you can’t help but feel your heart failing from the sheer number of pages, or from the convoluted prose that drives you to tears.
“But why?” You might ask. “Why should I spend my precious time over obscure books rotting in library basements?”
I’m glad you asked that question, comrade. Because, these are the kind of books people like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien read when they were teenagers. All the literary giants that we look up to learned from these ancient literary giants. Yes, that’s correct. To be a writer is not to be a reader. It’s to be a literate person who devours any kind of books, no matter how long or how hard. We have to do hard things on purpose if your Work In Progress is going to be that book people will still read about fifty years from now. And even if you don’t want to be that kind of writer, I would still push and exhort you into becoming literate. For without literacy, you become a gullible person that the “empires” of this world can propagate and deceive easily. And as a believer, I certainly do not wish for such things to happen.
So I offer to you a few practical advises. If you are the kind of person who already reads a lot, I challenge you to find three other types of writing that you usually do not read. Then make a routine to read them at least once a month. For me, this looks like a loop of classics–nonfiction–light fiction (like YA)–other mediums (Japanese books, newspapers, research papers, etc). It’s a good idea to pace yourself so you don’t burn out, but pushing yourself somewhat so reading is not only an escapism from where you don’t learn as much. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make reading non-recreational; in fact, I would say it’s the height of recreation. Just make learning a form of it.
For all of you who do not read, I beg you. Please find one simple book, whether it be self-help or fiction or fanfic or whatever it may be, and read it. If you have absolutely no idea what books are, go to your local library or bookstore and ask for a light read. You may like it. You may not. But in the end, it’s the first step that counts. No matter how little it may be, books can change your life. (Even if it’s that best selling YA book that I love to hate, it means something.)
So in conclusion, dear comrades, know this: Books are power. It has change the world, and it keeps changing the world. So why not read the past, present, and future together so you would gain golden insight and broader worldview grounded by a wide range of thinkers? Why not challenge yourself, and instead of saying “Shakespeare is too hard”, say “Shakespeare is challenging”?
For challenges, you can overcome. Hard things are simply hard.
What say you? Are there books you’ve read that practically burned you from the inside out from it’s challenging-ness? Let me know in the comments below, and I’d love to chat with you!