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Confessions of a Recovering Contrarian

Allow me to vent for one second. May I?

For years, I was one of those people who didn’t read a book or watch a movie simply because “everyone else was doing it.” I was, and still am at times, a contrarian.

Yeah, I was a nonfiction snob, too, so I obviously had many issues. Nonetheless, I forged onward in my daily life, content to yell “nay!” to your “yay!” and “black!” to your “white!”

Then Harry Potter came around. Actually, my wife and her love of the Harry Potter books came around. And, one summer evening, either out of blinding love of my future spouse or out of sheer curiousity, I chose to read the first Harry Potter book.

Then, for the next two or three months, I read all six books that had been published at the time. After that, I patiently waited with millions of teenagers, housewives, and other in-the-closet Harry Potter readers for the final book in the series to come out.

I loved the books. J.K. Rowling’s writing is exceptional. The story is unbelievably creative and detailed. Everything about the Harry Potter series is first-class.

At some point while reading the series, probably after the first 50 pages of the first book, I realized how petty and stupid I was for refusing to read any of these books for years. And why? Because everyone else was reading them.

This post at Book Riot reminded me of that whole experience. It reminded me of that time in my life when I was such a pretentious contrarian when it came to stuff like Harry Potter. I was too good for it, I thought.

And you know the truth about it? People who don’t read something just because it’s popular are just as shallow as people who only read something because it’s popular. There’s no difference. Both are motivated by other people’s opinions, not their own likes and dislikes.

This 101 Books project has given me the opportunity to really distinguish between what I like and what I dislike, without worrying about the hype either way. The critics loved The Sound and The Fury? That’s great, but I didn’t. The critics loved Catch 22? That’s great. Me too!

The problem with always taking a contrarian viewpoint is you just wear yourself out. You spend so much time sticking your finger in the air to judge which way popular opinion is blowing that you have no time left to think for yourself.

It’s exhausting. Just as exhausting as the guy who spends all his money trying to wear the right clothes, go to the right movies, drive the right cars, and say all the cool words– like “awesome sauce” and “epic”—just because it’s the cool thing to do.

So when it comes to books, or anything else for that matter, stop caring about what people think. Stop reading The Hunger Games just because everyone else is doing it, and stop NOT reading The Hunger Games because everyone else is doing it. Read what you want to read–even (cough!) if it’s Twilight.

Okay, got that out of the way. Now, have you guys read To Kill A Mockingbird? OMG! You must read To Kill A Mockingbird! How have you not read To Kill A Mockingbird?

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird like 50 times. No kidding. It’s my all-time favorite.

    I’m guilty of reading books because everyone’s reading it. That’s why I have all three Twilight books. And the Hunger Games. I stopped after the Hunger Games. I didn’t even bother watching the movie.

    Like

    April 13, 2012
  2. wise words!

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    April 13, 2012
  3. Tru-dat my brutha! I was thinking about my personal “101-Books List” and how it would differ from Time’s. All my books would be readable, entertaining and enlightening. No drudgery.

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    April 13, 2012
  4. I would offer you support as the words rang very true, but I fear everyone else will offer it. Now I cant read “To kill a mocking bird” either. Honestly, people find the contrarian view in life from sometimes seeing there is a better way rather than the popular way. Then just get stuck in the rut on that thinking. Reading in particular can be difficult to handle as for most readers away from large pop centers – the providers of books only offer the popular. I agree – read what you like when you can, and what you can whan you can’t.

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    April 13, 2012
    • Yep. People confuse critical thinking and independent thinking with “going against the flow.” It’s not always the same thing.

      Like

      April 13, 2012
  5. I read the first Harry Potter on a long flight. I enjoyed it, but not enough to read the others. During all the hype, I wondered if I was missing out, but was also incredibly happy that kids and adults were reading, many for the first time. I was also happy it kept my former company Borders afloat for as long as it did.

    Glad you have given up your contrary ways and written your epic blogged tossed with awesome sauce!

    Like

    April 13, 2012
  6. Reading what you like and want to read? It is definitely called maturity of attitude. Reading what is suggested to us is okay too, but we get to stop at page 20 if it is not for us. This just seems obvious to me. Perhaps I’ll never be cool.

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    April 13, 2012
  7. So true. I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and then all the ones about her daughter, her mother… Just saying, those books never end. I got majorly made fun of for it, but I enjoyed them. Later, I latched onto the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings and was horribly torn apart for that too. At first, I didn’t understand why people were making fun of me. It made me feel bad. Then, I realized I didn’t care, just like you said, because the act of reading those books, whether they were good or bad, long or short, worth it or not, was an experience I valued for what I learned from reading them. Honestly, I find reading, allowing yourself to view the world through another character’s point of view, if only fictional, has taught me a lot about empathy in the real world.

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    April 13, 2012
  8. I tend to be a culture snob as well… i’ll read the books, then it will get popular and then i won’t like them. Harry Potter i started after the whole craze so i was okay with that. but hunger games i didn’t like because i didn’t like the way it was written, it might have had something to do with the growing popularity, but i didn’t like it.

    To kill a mockingbird OMG greatest book ever

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    April 13, 2012
  9. Very funny beginning. Thanks! Life of Pi by Yann Martel is my favorite.

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    April 13, 2012
  10. I love the written Ken Keesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A book I read over and over again admittedly is Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte. I hesitate to read Harry Potter because if I like it, (fantasy not my thing Goerge Mcdonald’s Lilith and Phantases very ancient but he inspired tolkein—or C.S. Lewis’ trilogy fantasy trilogy, Out of the Silent Planent Malecandra and Perelandra, (order?) I loved these fantasy books) then I take time away from the language and realist raw sometimes rude wake up calls that I’m determined literature needs to be. Apparently reality blatant truths cause people to look the other way. I figure, there must be a way to corner awareness until the elephant is smothered. Harry Potter is necessary until one is a certain age; but if…well I’m sure everyone has heard a nut like this perspective. Thanks for the topic–

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    April 13, 2012
  11. I’ve passed on many good ones for a long time for that very reason. There was a season in my twenties and early thirties that I read “intellectual reads” that I didn’t think I would like but wanted to have in my reading resume just to appear intelligent. I was really glad when I found your blog because I have been choosing at least 1/2 my read from 100 top books or 100 top banned books for at least the last year. Thank God! I had wrongly judged The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and other great reads just to “not be mainstream”.

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    April 13, 2012
  12. I love that you put in the *cough* Twilight reference. I’m boycotting out of principle (politics and supporting the author etc) but I will read them eventually from either the library or awkwardly asking to borrow copies.

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    April 13, 2012
  13. Yes, I have read To Kill a Mockingbird. Was very good. So were the Potter books. I used to be a contrarian, too. But somewhere along the line, I realized I was missing some very good books/movies/records (at the time). Yep, sometimes the masses are right. And sometimes they’re not.

    Like

    April 13, 2012
  14. zigana #

    I was in Australia with the worst travel partner EVER. (HUGE lesson learned there.) I went to a book store looking for anything to read so I could shut out my partner and be left alone (Yes, it really was that bad.). I had heard all my nieces mention the HP books but the pandemonium that is HP had not grasped them in it’s stranglehold yet. I ignored the books…. walked by them a few times and because I was frustrated with my situation… I couldn’t pick anything else… so, I gave into a “kid’s book”. I was resigned to it and thought – well at least I will know what the girls are talking about. The first four books were read and loved before I got back to the US. Harry turned out to be the best friend I could ask for on that trip.

    Now I have read other teen book series yep even… *gulp* Twilight… as well as the entire Eragon series. Eragon with it’s elves, dwarves and dragons… I loved…. Twilight… blech.

    I learned to give books a chance because I want to… not because of what I have heard or because of what others will think… and I most times I have been surprised.

    (I also learned that publishers will give books different titles for different countries/audiences… HP1 from Australia was “Harry Potter & the Philospher’s Stone” which is the original title… changed to the “Sorceror’s Stone” for the US.)

    Like

    April 13, 2012
  15. I love this post! this is exactly what happened to my hubby who read the harry potter books as a favour to me and then just couldn’t put them down.

    Like

    April 15, 2012
  16. Another great topic and I enjoyed the varied responses. I was visiting friends with children in Duxford, England when I picked up the first Harry Potter book. Three months later I was back in the States and wondered about the adorable book about the wizard boy. It was some time later when I had an opportunity to very happily read the books with my little great-niece. Wow, speaking of which, Danica is 18 years old now.

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    April 15, 2012
  17. Reblogged this on Ralph Lashley's Blog.

    Like

    April 15, 2012
  18. Ah yes. I’ve had my contrarian moments. Still do and I catch myself and say, “Get over it dude” and I do. I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird now. It’s already made me cry like twice.

    Like

    April 16, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How To Know If You’re A Book Snob | 101 Books
  2. #3 In 2012 | 101 Books

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