Lit nerds shaming (just what the world needed)

bookwarRuth Graham’s new article on why adults should be ashamed to read YA literature seems to have brought all the literary snobs out of the wood work. You know the type, your friend who only read Joyce in public or lament much to loud and publicly about poetry that rhymes. Of course this tends to be an issue, that comes to surface again and again and again. It isn’t enough to read, you have to read the right work.

When I was a child, the devil was Goosebumps. How could kids waste their time on this, there was no literary value…blah blah blah blah blah.

I was one of those kids wasting my time reading these poorly written crap, which they were, no moral, no plot development and frankly about half way through the book, I could tell you how it was going to end. But to my third grade self, there was nothing more exciting than getting my next book-order in with my new Goosebumps book.

Mind you, before those books I HATED reading. I’d only read what was required in school. And eventually I became bored with them and moved on to the classics (Fahrenheit 451, Tom Sawyer, etc).

Here is something to think about (from 2013): 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read:million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.

We do not need to be shaming people on their literary choices. Yes, there are more engaging and mind boggling works than YA (though some are pretty darn powerful like 13 Reason’s Why), but frankly as long as something keeps you reading, that is something.

And let’s talk about some of the classics, with a plot break down:

Old man and the sea: Old man goes fishing. Has a lot of regret. Finally catches his giant fish. Sharks eat it. He is defeated. Dreams of lions (dies).

The Catcher in the Rye: A whiny boy whines for way too long.

Need I go on? (Don’t get me started on Pamela.)

In all, Graham’s article seems to forget:

Reading is a personal choice and what is engaging or deep to someone is completely person.

Frankly, I challenge all of you to go reread Dr. Seuss’s work, there’s some deep social complementary in it.

And there is an art in simplicity in the ability to expound deep thoughts to younger audiences.

So go out, read what you want. Be it a magazine, a best seller or a classic and don’t let anyone give you crap for it.


21 comments on “Lit nerds shaming (just what the world needed)

  1. Excellent post. I completely agree. Although I enjoy many “classics”, I love getting lost in a good YA book. Whatever gets you reading!

  2. On the one hand, I agree with you: there are so many alternatives to reading that are so much less engaging, so much less enriching… frankly, if someone is reading a book instead of watching television, I kind of want to stand up and cheer for them.

    On the other hand, I have to admit, sometimes when I hear people discussing books, I want to stab my ears. Especially when someone is talking about how great, say, twighlight is, and how, for example, Bram Stoker could have learned something from it.

    I guess it’s a little like politics: you have to respect it when somebody stands up for what they believe in, but you’ve also got to acknowledge that some people’s beliefs are a bit out there.

    Still, in terms of priorities, I’d say it’s more important to get people reading than to judge them on what they read.

  3. I was still reading comic books when I was in the Marine Corps at twenty one. Whenever someone made fun of me, I could flip to a page of ANY comic book I was in the middle of, point to a word and ask them the definition. When they didn’t know, I would suggest they start reading more … of anything.
    I was soon left to my enjoyment of reading whatever I liked. 🙂

  4. I could not agree more! I love reading and as a person with a BA in English and a former teacher… My guilty pleasure is Nora Roberts. I’ve read every one. Love them. I also love that my kids see me reading so it’s natural for them to love books. I love that my daughter (age 6) right now has a goal to read chapter books… And wants big ones that will make her fall asleep… Like mommy.

  5. When I was a kid, I was reading Stephen King huddled in my blanket on the basement couch; closing the laundry room door so I was protected from the sump pump, lol. Aside from just wanting to share one of my favorite reading moments, my point is that people you have to read what speaks, inspires, incites or frightens you, and the b.s. classifications are just a way to feel superior. There are some YA books that tackle hard subjects and really interesting (bleak) dystopian futures. Good writing transcends any labels snobs want to put on words. =)

    Such an awesome subject. This is one of my pet peeves and I appreciate the chance to vent, lol.

  6. Love your post!! I read EVERYTHING… comics, poetry, YA, and yes, I am currently reading Joyce’s “Ulysses” for the second time. Reading is reading, regarding of what you read. Cheers.

  7. I love YA Lit! (Anyone wanna make something of it!) My favourite, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy.

  8. I saw that article but only read part of it. I love a lot of YA lit. I went to midnight release Harry Potter parties!! I’m a librarian, writer and reviewer who also reads grown up books. I think I’m doing okay reading YA. 😉

  9. I completely agree! I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed and tell people before reading my books that they aren’t “literary masterpieces.” I studied English Lit in University and felt like an outsider. I don’t enjoy the classics! I don’t enjoy lengthy descriptions and having to reflect on every line to figure out what they mean. I hate reading Shakespeare. I hated almost every book I ever had to read in school… that was until I discovered chick lit and YA fiction and fell in love with characters and stories that I could relate to. With fast-paced first-person narrative and humour. I never realized books could be fun to read until one day I read Sophie Kinsella’s “Can You Keep A Secret?”

    If anyone out there does enjoy YA fiction and has a bit of a romantic side, I’d be happy to send you a free copy of my debut paranormal teen fiction novel Enchanted Awakening in exchange for a review if you enjoyed it :). Email: subject line: review. Thanks!

  10. I completely agree, and I enjoyed that you brought up the stats of who can actually read. How ridiculous it is to be snobbish about literature. What people like is their own business. It’s not a competition of how sophisticated our tastes are. We all have our guilty pleasures, and we’re all different. Booo snobbery! 😦

  11. Her article could have been so much better, and actually been relevant, had she shortened it to something like this: “I encourage everyone to read what they can and want, but I would challenge them to try reading outside their comfort level from time to time. I have found such enlightenment and fulfillment by reading the unexpected and have grown so much for it.”

    She might learn a thing or two with that mindset. Who’s to say adults can’t still learn from childrens books and up?

    Thank you for posting your article, though I could have lived without reading hers. It just has me all annoyed somebody would write that.

  12. Hello! I love your blog. This is me commenting here for the first time and I apologize for all of the vitriol I am about to spout, but this sort of thing ticks me off and I just caffeinated.
    Forget the presumption, forget the class based bias and the intellectual hubris of the whole essay, her argument was made completely invalid the instant she suggested adults toddle off and read Dickens for enjoyment instead of YA. First off? Dickens would totally be a YA author if he were around now a days, most of his work is about the foolish decisions of youth and/or the miserable suffering of said youth and teens eat tha up. teh dude was a total sensationalist, “The Hunger Games” and “Go Ask Alice” would be right up in his wheel house. Unless, of course, she means we should go hardcore and read “Bleak House” or “A Tale of Two Cites” in our down time, for funsies, because normal human beings have the time, fortitude, and masochistic tendencies to do just that. We can even top it off with “Notes from the Underground” for some light reading before bed!
    *this is me face-palming, it will take a moment**
    But more the the point, who the hell reads Dickens for enjoyment? Dude got paid by the word and he had bills to pay. Throw a copy of “Bleak House” at someone hard enough you will either break their arm or give them a concussion.
    Again I apologize for all the vitriol, as a bibliophile and former bookstore minion I have very strong thoughts and feels about people policing other peoples choices in reading material. Unless it’s Nicolas Sparks, because that man is a plague upon humanity.

  13. I have a 20 page academic article arguing that “The Monster at the End of This Book” is the best book of the latter half of the 20th century, complete with footnotes, references to all sort of critical analysis and just a little bit of humor.

    Thank you for your post… it sums up what I wanted to say brilliantly.

  14. Love it. I gave up caring what pretentious readers thought a while ago (somewhere in the middle of devouring the Twilight series…) because no matter what they’re never pleased, and I *do* read “academic”, adult books too, just sometimes it’s nice to sit down and just read, and not think, and not find hidden meanings but just innocent stories.

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