June 11, 2020
I believe that if you read for personal growth and broaden your perspectives you should also be opened to challenging yourself in terms of what you read. I often read as a form of escapism, and sometimes that escape is someplace borderline unsettling and difficult, but it’s fascinating to experience something so foreign. Much like reading a book where the protagonist is the ‘villain’ or someone unsavory, it allows you to see the world through their perspective and you learn a little about why they are the way they are. Banned books are also often good examples because being controversial, they challenge a person's personal opinions but often are impactful.
I recently started reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, knowing it would be a difficult book to read. It chronicles a young girl’s relationship with her teacher that turns highly inappropriate. It touches on pedophilia, grooming, guilt, and the mind of a young girl who thinks she’s in love. It references Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov as a way for the teacher to rationalize his abuse. I knew it would make me uncomfortable - extremely so - but I also knew it was important to read amd that it mattered.
Often we readers consume books that align with our own beliefs and validate our current ideas, but we can get stuck in that comfortable, safe space. I wholeheartedly believe that reading for personal growth is an important part of being an avid reader. Sometimes you just need to be challenged. It might change the way you think about something or it might not, but it’s always good to see other sides of stories and viewpoints. Studies have shown that reading fiction improves our capacity to understand and mentally react to other individuals and social situations, and that it bolsters your ability to empathize, according to this article by Psychology Today. If you enjoy that comfortable space and read purely for enjoyment, though, that is still 100% okay! Just know that there are books out there waiting to challenge you and give you food for thought if you ever want them.
If you want to challenge yourself, check out some of these titles that could be considered examples of “uncomfortable reads”:
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