The Reader’s Bill of Rights

I found this in the current issue of Utne:

The right not to read
The right to skip pages
The right not to finish
The right to reread
The right to read anything
The right to escapism
The right to read anywhere
The right to browse
The right to read out loud
The right not to defend your tastes.

–Daniel Penna, French author, from Better Than Life

These may seem silly. After all, there are no laws about reading, so to articulate one’s rights is superfluous. However, I myself have struggled with self-made rules about reading. I have a rule, for example, that if I start a book, I must finish it. But my time is valuable, and I want to spend it reading what interests me. If I buy a book, I should read it, not just browse through it. So much information! So much chaff. It’s permissible to sort. I’ve also bought more books than I have time to read, and struggled with feeling guilty for that. As if I’m deceiving someone (who? the world?) by having unread books on my shelves.

I know some folks who think fiction is bad to read, that it’s just fantasy, that it’s wasting time in that which is unreal. I would contend that books are probably a more constructive form of escapism than television, however. Reading requires engagement, interaction with the the pages, words, and story. It utilizes imagination.

Recently I decided it was okay not to finish a novel I’d begun, even though it was a Pulitzer prize winner. I also gave myself permission to own as many books as I have space for, and if this means I’ll never read them all, that’s all right. Lastly, I recommend How to Read a Book to readers wanting to get more out of non-fiction reading (or literature and poetry), especially if your desire is to stretch your mental muscles by reading more challenging works.

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One Comment on “The Reader’s Bill of Rights”

  1. Colleen Says:

    Good for you. I had that same problem. If I checked a book out of the library I HAD to read it. The last book I thought I had to read was ‘Cold Mountain’ and I could not get through the first chapter. I gave up and took it back to the library unread. To many other books waiting to be read to waste time on something you don’t want to read.