"A real book-lover looks with infinite indulgence upon the simplest person's choice of books. He has the wit to know that this flood of second-rate invention upon which so many feed their fancy and by which so many endure the monotony of their lives is something quite different from what it seems to the person who just glances at it as he passes by. He has the wit to know that every page of these second-rate books as it impresses the mind of the living reader is transmuted by the alchemy of the imagination into something beyond the literal meaning of the words. All readers are imaginative readers. They wouldn't be readers at all otherwise."
This is from The Enjoyment of Literature by John Cowper Powys, one of my favorite writers. It expresses well my own latitudinarian critical stance. One of the things that most prevents people from enjoying great literature is that they have it shoved down their throats at the wrong time and under the worst circumstances. I first encountered Jane Austen when I was a 15-year-old working-class kid going to Father Judge High in Northeast Philly. Pride and Prejudice was required reading. But the world portrayed therein was so far from the world I knew that it could have been written in Martian. To this day I have yet to warm to the charms of Miss Austen.
Readers should, like water, follow their own course and reach their own level. Nothing does literature greater harm than snobbery.