Is there a benefit to reading books you hate?

Have you ever been assigned a book for school that you just hated? Have you finished? Did you learn anything, despite your aversion?

Think about the required readings and the demands they place on your time, your brain, and your emotions. Are there hidden benefits to compulsory reading assignments?

In “Why You Should Read Books You Hate,” Pamela Paul writes:

Here’s a reading challenge: Pick up a book you’re sure you don’t like – the style is bad, the taste isn’t yours, the author’s biography isn’t appealing. You could even go further. Pick a book you think you hate, a genre you’ve shunned since high school, by an author you tend to avoid. Now read it to the bitter last page.

Sound like hell? You are off to a good start.

It’s not about reading a book you know is bad, a pleasure in itself, like an exceptionally dashing villain. It’s about finding a book that confronts you and watching it to the last word.

In an age when people are locked into narrow news sources based on their particular tainted worldview—the ones they follow on Twitter, the evening shoutfest they choose, AM radio or NPR—there is no It’s no surprise that most of us also read books that we tend to prefer. Reading is fun and takes time. Why bother reading something you don’t like?

But reading what you hate helps you narrow down what you like, whether it’s style, story, or argument. Because books are long-form, they require more from the author and the reader than a talk show or a Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Holding on for 300 pages is about immersing yourself in another person’s world and finding out what it feels like. It’s part of what makes the books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than tossing the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What makes you so uncomfortable about them?

Students: Read the full article, then tell us:

— Have you ever deliberately chosen a book you didn’t like for recreational reading? Why or why not? If so, did you read it to the end? And what did you learn in the process?

— How do readers benefit from finding and finishing books they don’t like?

— In your future life as a reader, will you set a personal goal to read books that you are sure you will not like? Why or why not? If so, what might you choose to read and why?

Students 13 and older are welcome to comment. All comments are moderated by Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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