Since the invention of words on paper, countless numbers of the world’s avid readers have been plagued with the literary snob syndrome. I caught the disease in my eighth grade English class when I was assigned to read a “classic” book of my choice. This book was Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
To eighth grade me, it was a big book—skimming the pages revealed that it contained big words, too; however, once I started, it was easy to continue. From the first chapter, the story took hold of my imagination and never let go. The prose was so vivid that I was able to see every detail in my mind’s eye—as if I were watching it play out on a screen. It was so captivating that it sent chills down my spine—similar to the chills that come with hearing a singer with a rich, powerful voice.
Reading what I perceived as “good writing” changed my reading life. From eighth grade to senior year, I shunned all the middle-grade books and young adult novels and favored heavier works like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. I even dabbled in nonfiction, my favorite being Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Several times I tried to return to more contemporary books, but I always quit them because I found the writing dull and amateur.
I even tried to read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, but I couldn’t bring myself to continue because, to me, Dracula was the only “real” vampire. I often said that Edward was a sissy compared to Dracula, and that Dracula would win in a fight; however, this argument never ended well.
At one point I even believed I was above other readers on the literary ladder because I read “better books.”
Along my I-only-read-classic-books journey, I certainly discovered many advantages with reading older works—to name a few, it expands vocabulary, improves writing, and encourages readers to think critically; however, I also realized that it is important to read contemporary books. It’s time to get out of my all-contemporary-books-are-trash mentality.
I believed people who avoided classic books were “uncultured”—now I crown myself with that title. Though I know a good bit within the realm of older literature, I’ve scarcely touched contemporary works. Contemporary books, like recent movies and modern art, reflect ideals and issues found within our present culture (even if the author is incorporating these themes subconsciously). Avoiding newer books is just as bad as shunning classics—if not worse.
I’ve come to accept that contemporary writing isn’t trash—it’s just different. Instead of the detailed, flowery prose I’m accustomed to, contemporary prose is fast-paced and gets to the point. The writing has changed with the times—our generation is a generation of instant gratification, rather than delayed gratification. Most people only desire to know what happens at the end, and don’t care as much for the journey.
Even so, my Goodreads list is growing longer with more recent titles. Who knows—maybe I’ll even find a new favorite book (though Dracula will be hard to beat). If anyone has any recommendations, feel free to send them my way.