Category Archives: Books

Nick Hornby on why you shouldn’t read novels you don’t enjoy

Nick Hornby, the author of High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and About a Boy, makes an excellent argument that if you are reading a high-brow literary book and don’t enjoy it, you should stop rather than struggling through it.

This seems like an obvious point, but it’s an obvious point that a lot of people who think of themselves as brilliant don’t seem to understand.  Just look at the comments to the article.

You should read what you enjoy, and not read what you don’t enjoy.  If you like challenging literary novels, then go ahead and read them.  But recognize that’s a matter of taste, and your tastes don’t make you superior.  Nor should you try to impose your tastes on others or insist they must be stupid for not sharing them.

If you like Moby Dick, read Moby Dick.  If you like Nick Hornby novels, read Nick Hornby novels.  If you like trashy romance, young-adult adventure, pulp sci-fi, potboiler mysteries, comic books, or Dr. Seuss, you should read those things that you like.  And if you don’t like any of those things, you shouldn’t waste your time and energy forcing yourself to struggle through them.

As Hornby argues, reading shouldn’t be a chore or obligation.  It should be something you want to do, much like watching TV is for people that like TV.  And to make that happen, you’ve got to pick the books that you want to read rather than the books that pretentious people tell you you ought to read.

Struggling your way to the end of a challenging book doesn’t make you superior.  It means that either you are someone who enjoys challenging books, someone who been tricked into thinking that you have an obligation to accept the highbrow tastes that have been imposed upon you, or a full-of-yourself douchebag seeking an excuse to look down on others.

If the first option describes you, then good.  Keep doing what you’re doing.  If the second is the case, then you should free yourself from this self-imposed obligation and switch to reading books that you like.  And if you’re the kind of twit that looks down on people that don’t share your taste in literature, then get over yourself.

It’s pretty sad that there are so many of these twits that it’s necessary for Hornby to make such a self-evident point.

Also, the comments to that article are pretty funny, as the full-of-themselves douchebags sputter and drop their monocles over a respected author attacking the core of their imaginary moral superiority, but can’t agree over which books make them superior and which ones are dismissable pap.  (There are also plenty of sensible people in the comments agreeing with Hornby.)

(Note: I’ve never personally read a Nick Hornby book, but I did enjoy the movies of About a Boy and High Fidelity.)


On Thor Becoming a Woman

A lot of people, myself among them, have been confused by the news that in upcoming Marvel comics, Thor will be a woman.  Thor is a specific person/deity, so it doesn’t seem like Thor’s identity should be able to change.  It’s not a job-title that could be held by different people, like the Green Lantern.

Just to be clear so I don’t get accused of sexism, my confusion was over them changing Thor’s identity, regardless of gender.  I would be equally confused if they said that Thor would henceforth be some guy named Fred Johnson from New Jersey.  Whereas if they said the Green Lantern would be a woman, that would make perfect sense.  (I actually find it odd that there hasn’t been a human female Green Lantern yet.)

My initial assumption was that this would be an alternate universe comic.  Marvel has many “universes” for their comics, so they can have many different versions of their characters.  Since the original Norse mythology is inspiration for Thor rather than canon, there’s nothing unreasonable about them setting up a new universe where Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is female.

(That’s the case with the recent brouhaha over Archie being killed off. That is only happening in a alternate universe spin-off series that explores possible futures for Archie.  In one of those hypothetical futures he gets killed.  But in the main line of Archie comics, he’s just fine.)

But I just found an interview with Marvel writers that says my initial assumption was wrong.

It’s confusing because in Marvel comic books, “Thor” refers to *both* the Norse god *and* to whoever wields the hammer Mjolnir, which grants lightning powers.

So the Norse god will somehow become unworthy to wield Mjolnir and lose all his powers. He’ll still be in the comics, but just a regular dude presumably being sad that he can’t do anything. Some woman will wield Mjolnir and have all the lightning powers.

This isn’t the first time that’s happened. At one point, Storm from the X-Men used Mjolnir and had the Thor powers. But that was just for the short term, and this new woman will have the Thor powers for the long term.

So that clears it up, and now you know more than pretty much every journalist who wrote articles about this subject.

New Harry Potter short story

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, JK Rowling published a new short story, in the form of a gossip column by Rita Skeeter.  It checks in on Harry and friends now that they are adults.

The story is here, though you’ll have to sign up at Rowling’s Pottermore site before you can read it.

Ready Player One: The Movie

I thought that Ready Player One was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in the last few years, so it’s exciting to hear about progress being made on the film adaptation.

If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it.  Especially if you were a geeky teenager in the 80s, as you’ll be able to relate to all the references.  But you don’t *need* to be of the right age.  I’m slightly too young to have experienced much of what the book talks about, but I still loved it.

I have mixed feelings about Zak Penn.  He tends to work on films that go through a lot of screenwriters, so it’s hard to get a feel for his writing or clarity on whether he’s responsible for the good parts or the bad parts.  I loved Last Action Hero, X-Men 2, and The Avengers.  But then he also worked on Inspector Gadget (the movie), Elektra, and X-Men 3.

Also, you should take this news with a grain of salt.  There are approximately 10 times as many movies in pre-production as actually get released, so until a film has a director and cast announced, it’s not real.  (And even then, there’s no guarantee it will actually come out.)  But it’s exciting to think about this movie.

Also, if you like Ready Player One, you should watch the movie Fanboys, which was written by the same person.  (And if you like Fanboys, you should read Ready Player One.)