Life is Short: Stop Reading to “Look Smart”

This winter break, I intend to do a lot of reading. Between my family, graduate school, work, and general adult responsibility, I simply do not have a lot of time to read books—at least books of my choosing. The stack of books I’m spending my break with includes several “intellectual” types  of books, along with a myriad of “easy” reads. I’ve got Nietzsche, Fromm, and Kierkegaard. I’ve also got Austen, Avi, and Leary.

Let’s not even get into who gets to decide which books are “intellectual” and which are “easy.” That’s another in-depth discussion for another blog post, and that’s not a mountain I’m ready to climb. I’m just here to say this—if Kierkegaard doesn’t rock my bookish socks off, I’m tossing him into the discard pile. I am not about to use my precious, pleasure-reading time to read a book that isn’t lighting my fire. If Kierkegaard can’t get me excited, he can’t stay. Take your toothbrush with you, Kierk.

It’s funny to me that we (I say we because I’ve been guilty of this in the past) will actually read a book we can’t stand because someone, sometime, somewhere, decided it was an “intellectual” type of book, which means we “look smart” reading it, or “feel smart” when we can say we have read it. What if I get twenty pages into Kierkegaard and I don’t even understand what he’s saying? I’m supposed to spend another two-hundred pages with him?


I’m almost thirty years old, and there are so many books in this world to read that I’d need hundreds of lifetimes to do it. I want to enjoy my reading, not suffer through it. You should be enjoying your reading, too.

I always get my feathers ruffled when people start mocking books like 50 Shades of Grey or the Divergent series. I don’t feel a certain loyalty to these books, but I do feel a loyalty to the people who read these books. Take my wife, for instance. She’s a staunch non-reader extraordinare, someone more likely to eat something disagreeable than pick up a book. She’s read the entire 50 Shades series, though, and is working on the newest book, Grey. If she doesn’t like to read, why force her to spend her precious, too short life, reading? And if by this stroke of luck she has found books (plural, books) she will read, why mock that enjoyment of reading? As for the Divergent series, I’ve not read the books, but I’ve seen the movies, and the books can’t be as bad as people make them out to be.

In fact, I feel a touch sorry for the people who mock these types of books. I try to stay fairly judgment free, so I won’t say anything conclusive, but I do suspect the people who mock certain books are the same people wasting their precious reading time, their precious life, reading books that make them “look smart” rather than books that make them happy. That’s a sad, readerly life to live, I imagine.

All I want you to take away from this post is this:

Life is too short. Read the books you enjoy! Don’t feel like you owe anyone anything when it comes to your precious reading time. Don’t make others feel ashamed for what they enjoy reading, and don’t spend any more time with people like Kierkegaard than you want to. Enjoy yourself and your reading—you deserve it.

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