What Do You Read When You Don’t Have To?

What do you read for fun?

A famous and quirky author once said, “It’s what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you’ll be when you can’t help it.” This was one of Oscar Wilde’s many inspiring quotes about words, love, and life.

Books, music, movies, all say a great deal about our personalities, about who we are, our hopes and dreams. The books we choose to read, not the ones we read because we were assigned them in English class, can tell an awful lot about who we are when we aren’t over thinking our image, or our peers.

Reading is an extremely personal activity. It requires imagination and attention. What we choose to read, whether its genre or authors can change at certain points in our lives. Teenage me read very different kinds of books than adult me has been reading (with the exception of a few re reads of classics aka Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings).

Each book we read holds a different meaning. And these books might express these meanings off the page as well as on. Are you curious what your current read might say about who you are?

Here are three quirky reads and what they might say about the people that read them.

1. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

The Longest Ride is a natural Nicholas Sparks novel and story. Often Sparks writes about love and loss, faith and the supernatural forces of the world. His characters are almost always destined to meet. They have a purpose in the world. Most friends and peers that I talk to that have read The Longest Ride have also read many of Nicholas Sparks’ other novels. His stories are all well crafted, but the underlying theme can be similar. That is why those attracted to Nicholas Sparks’ books have much in common. From my personal experience of reading Sparks’ novels to the conversations I have had with others who enjoy his work I have realized that the attraction to his stories lies in the distinct sense of hope that emanates from his characters. Often we read to escape reality but not so much so that we loose sight of our world. Readers need characters that live in a different world but struggle with the same emotions, relationships, and thoughts. Reading a Nicholas Sparks’ novel often leaves us with this feeling of hopeful inspiration that we might succeed through our struggles.

2. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is an incredible story about Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic athlete that survived the most unimaginable circumstances after being shipped off to war. The main character, Louis Zamperini, had to let go of his dream to race in the Berlin Olympics in order to focus on his and his crew’s survival. Audiences of Unbroken travel with Lou Zamperini as he is starved, captured, tortured, and stripped of all dignity he possessed. Yet, while reading his story one cannot help but feel inspired to be hopeful, and courageous. I’ve heard others who have read Unbroken say, “If I ever complain about my life again, remind me of this book.” Louis Zamperini, a real life example of bravery, and hope only died last year in 2014. He returned, later in his life, to the place where he was once held captive, forgiving those who tortured him. Forgiveness is a major theme in this novel. Louie’s story teaches us forgiveness of ourselves, our loved ones, and even our enemies. So maybe readers of Unbroken are searching for the inspiration to forgive, to survive, and to keep pushing forward.

3. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The Game of Thrones series, that has now been turned into a hit HBO series, has had much attention. The stories are known for killing off your favorite character or maybe your favorite to hate. The characters range from good to evil, compassionate to ruthless, child to elder. The possibilities in the Game of Thrones series are endless. George R.R Martin has created a entirely different world yet the characters can be empathized with. Fantasy collides with reality. Game of Thrones is for the dreamers, the readers who are looking for a whole other world to jump into.  Yet, it almost seems more real than the Nicholas Sparks love story, which can seems too perfect at times. Martin creates political scandals, violence, and sex while certainly over the top (especially if we watch the HBO series), but has a strong struggle between good and evil that our world can most certainly relate to.

Every book has a meaning. But the best part about that is everyone brings their own personal experiences to help them pull meaning from the books they read. That is why there is no one genre that is designated for a particular type of person. We are such complex beings that the books we create and the stories we tell are a reflection of that complexity. All we have to do as readers is be open to new ideas, new emotions and think about what the book we have in our hands…means to us.

So what do you read for your own enjoyment?

Feature Image: Quattrostagioni, Creative Commons