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There’s no shame in making summer reading fun

Make sure you cover up this summer — with sunscreen. But your chick lit, schlocky novels, and frivolous fiction? No way, says writer Jennifer Weiner summer reading in her NewsHour essay. Embrace the F-word this Fourth of July, she says. Not just “freedom” but “fun.” Because there is no shame in making summer reading just that.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All week, we have been sharing our summer reading list.

    And we wanted to close out with an essay from author Jennifer Weiner, in praise of diving into a book.

    JENNIFER WEINER, Author, "Hungry Heart": They say that the happiest day of a writer's life is the day he or she gets to go home to tell mom and dad that the book that they have written is actually going to be published, to be sold in stores, and read by strangers, and out in the world.

    I assume that's true for every writer who didn't call her first book "Good in Bed." I will never forget my mom hugging me, and then pulling back to ask, "So what's the title?" and feeling my heart sink when I realized that I would actually have to tell her.

    With its naked legs and cheesecake on the cover, its breezy tone and wisecracking, single-in-the-city heroine, I knew that my debut wasn't a candidate for the National Book Award. I knew it was an entertaining, diverting read, the kind of book that would get packed in beach bags or purchased for plane trips.

    What I didn't know was the way the world would treat books like mine, the scorn and opprobrium that would be heaped on what the world would come to call chick lit, or how much it would hurt, or how completely I would believe it.

    At some point in my life, between birth and publication, I had gotten the message that there were books that mattered and books that didn't. For years, I believed that my work fell squarely into the second category. I bought what the critics were selling, that chick lit wasn't real literature, that it was only entertainment, that it was even dangerous, a kind of fast-growing weed pushing other worthier books off the shelves.

    But as the years went on, I started to think, what's wrong with something that's — quote — "just entertaining"? Is the problem that I'm writing something that's diverting and disposable, or that what I'm writing is diverting, and disposable and for women?

    Is chick lit any worse than mysteries or thrillers, the genre fiction that men read, the stuff that's at least slightly more respectable than romance and women's fiction? And, most importantly, is pleasure such a terrible thing?

    It's taken time, but what I have come to realize is that providing enjoyment, helping a plane ride pass more quickly, making a hospital stay less excruciating, letting a young woman struggling with her own insecurities and dysfunction feel less lonely, is a prize, too, and it's one to be treasured.

    And so, America, as we prepare to celebrate our nation's freedom and head to the beach, it's time to embrace the F-word: fun. Let's declare our independence from the shackles of shame. Take whatever you want to the beach, or the bus, or to bed. Read without apology, for enrichment and enjoyment.

    Whether it's spiky, challenging postmodern fiction, or commercial women's fiction, or commercial men's fiction, more commonly known as books, read what you like wherever you can and embrace the joy of the stories that make you happy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And you can find all of our essays online at PBS.org/NewsHour/essays.

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