Reading for fun

In which I try to redeem my previous intellectual arrogance

A few weeks ago I questioned “reading for fun” in a post that started an excellent discussion with Michael McLendon and a few others on Facebook. I put forth that although Brandon Sanderson exhorted his students to always remember they are writing for entertainment, I don’t read for what I would strictly call entertainment, and I always aim to get something more serious out of reading a book. I don’t have the same expectations for movies and TV. Sounds reasonable enough and the discussion went fine without too much hair-splitting.

However, I became aware that I sounded a little like this:


So let me set the record straight: I do read for fun and I get fun out of reading. The best way to explain this is in terms of genre. One of the reasons I like bookstores so much is that they’re divided by genre. It’s not always so easy to find what I want on a particular day at many libraries, which often shelve genres together. If I want literary fiction, I usually look for a particular author. If I want to browse scifi, I can go to a scifi and fantasy section. There’s a lot of cool artwork and nifty book jackets, and I am looking for a particular reading experience. I’m relying on particular genre conventions. I like it. It’s fun.

If I want horses, swords, dragons, magic, and castles, I’m going to the fantasy section. That stuff is fun. It’s cool. I do read for fun, and there’s a particular kind of fun to be had. My original thesis still stands: the fun of a book, and the deep intellectual experience of a really satisfying book is still different from “just fun.” I think if I tried to write a book “just for fun” it might be unsatisfying. But the truth is that plenty of books (and movies and TV shows) are satisfying just for their fun. Star Wars, for instance, is just a fun movie, and when people try to make it more intellectually satisfying or deep, it kinda falls apart. Frozen, on the other hand… .

Thanks for reading and for the discussion. I will have more arrogant propositions for us to debate in the future.


2 thoughts on “Reading for fun”

  1. […] Despite all that, fantasy from the eighties has a certain quality that I really like: in the eighties wizards were fairly rare, and this is one of the reasons that so much bad stuff slipped through the cracks and onto the bookstore shelves.  Dwarves were hard to come by, and so there’s a certain attitude toward magic in books from this era that maintains an air of mystery, which is a great part of the experience (and remember I don’t read for fun). […]


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