You don’t owe people the person you used to be. You don’t have to talk to people who are speaking to the old you. If they want to drag old you out, and you’ve already left that person behind, they don’t get to talk to you. When you’ve gone from weakness to strength, you don’t owe a show of your former self to someone who just can’t wrap their head around your change.
It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division… a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.
But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.
The fallacy that the pleasures offered by reading must necessarily be pleasures to which a self-defeating sense of shame is attached offers a very impoverished definition of gratification, whatever book we choose to pull from the shelf.