Does It Really Matter What Books We Read?
Last week, writer Ruth Graham published a piece in Slate Magazine slamming adults for wanting to read young adult novels saying they “should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” She laments that adults who spend their time reading young adult novels are wasting their time because they’re missing out on the literary novels written for adults. Graham finds YA novels to be overly simplistic about the human experience, which is a problem because it asks adults “to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired.”
Understandably, this piece caused quite an uproar on the internet, prompting numerous rebuttals. One of my favorite pieces was from an author who happens to write YA novels herself. Her main message is enforced in the title of her piece, “Adults Can Read Whatever The Hell They Want.” I couldn’t agree more.
I don’t think anyone should feel embarrassed by the books they read. I hold a torch for certain YA novels because many of them shaped my life as a young reader and a young adult. Judy Blume’s books and the Ramona Quimby series are two such series that come to mind. I would re-read any of those books in a heartbeat. It’s fun to return to those reading experiences and recreate those memorable moments. I’ve always been overly nostalgic and that’s part of the reason I love revisiting books from my youth. In fact, when I first started working at a school, the first thing I did was check out a copy of The Westing Game because I’d had such fond memories reading it in the sixth grade with my class. As an adult, I read it in a couple of hours.
Does it really matter what books we read? I say no. To me, the reading experience is what matters most. In our current culture where Netflix, Facebook, DVR, iPads, and a whole slew of other electronics and social media apps are competing for our attention and brain power, I salute those who pick books above all else. Read whatever you want, just read!
I find Graham’s opinion to be a bit elitist. She overly generalized adults who read YA novels. Adults who read YA novels don’t read them exclusively. And what’s wrong with reading YA novels for the sake of nostalgia or escape? Isn’t that one of the main reasons we read any way?