choosing what to readi've decided not to read fifty shades of grey by e l james.
being a bookseller, i have a lot of biases. it's actually something i have to consciously curb when i'm at work.
people will come up to me and ask me for chicklit or ask me about the best book i've read lately and i'll point to whatever amazing book and they'll give a little grimace and say "oh. yeah no, i don't read short stories." or "isn't that a guy book?" and i give a little smile and move on.
it gives me such heartache. all the weird labels of the world - and the book labels that grew mostly from the marketing departments of modern publishing.
so when i first found out about it, i only knew about the indie ebook story part. which i love. then i found out about the part where it came out of a twilight fan fiction workshop, which made me a little bit leery. and then i found out that it has been labeled - wait for it: "mommy porn"
what? mommies can't relate to "regular" porn? i am a mom, and i beg to differ.
speaking of labels...
i was intrigued when we got the book in. for a while i just observed the energy around it. YA is a strange medium (more labels!). in the past 10 years it has become a very trendy, one track genre of the moment:
everybody write about mean rich teenagers.
everybody write about angels/vampires/werewolves/insert desired supernatural creature here.
everybody write about dystopian society with a strong young hero/ine.
am I exaggerating? a little. but only a little. I was getting tired of wandering over to our YA section and seeing that it was 90 percent dan brown for kids. 10 percent sophie kinsella for kids.
and then hidden in there, one percent at a time: books like the fault in our stars. it's a very interesting phenomenon; these readers would pet the book when they got it and hug it to them. totally different energy. i wasn't sure if i would take the plunge and read it though. i've read a lot of the nouveau YA (as opposed to not so much of the new-best-thing in adult fiction (celestine prophecy killed all that desire).
a reader's trajectoryi am 42 years old - and i'll admit it, i totally judged women my age that didn't see the twilight series for what it was (i'll leave that alone). but i am a reader, and between the ages of 14-22 I read a whole range of crap. not just crap, but a lot of crap. from jude devereaux to a whole range of series mysteries and sci-fi that i barely remember. old school intrigue like helen mcininnis and semi-gothic romance/mysteries by mary stewart (with nine coaches waiting still ranking very high on my pleasure reads list), every non -series agatha christie, all of john lecarre, robert ludlum and jack higgins (I thought I was going to be a spy). my point here is, i think that every reader has a trajectory. i don't enjoy the twilights and the the hunger gameses and even yes, (potentially) the fifty shades of greys as much as I maybe would have 20 years ago. I've just read too much.
but really excellent books transcend their genre. like, for instance, the fault in our stars by john green. i read this book in one sitting and i would not get up, not even to pee, until i was done. here's why i think it transcends its genre: it about bigger things and it doesn't hide that fact. some of the most moving anthemic books in every generation take the simplest formulas and hold up a mirror for kids to see themselves; clever, shallow, desperate to belong, desperate to be unique. this book just happens to have the extra bonus that most of the main characters are kids dying of cancer. oh yeah, tearjerker as well. also, very funny.
it's hard to choose when you are a bookseller. sometimes you feel a certain responsibility to your customer to read the same books they are reading - but my take is this: i have more of a responsibility to myself as a reader and bookseller to read what i think i should pass on to other readers - because they may not pick that book up otherwise. the fault in our stars needs me to pass it on to people that are not 16 years old (and to 16 year olds that may not pick it up), fifty shades of grey doesn't need me.
i don't think i'm a better person because i won't read every book that becomes uber-popular. but i do think it's made me a better reader.
disclaimer: the reader's bill of rights (thank you to daniel pennac) enables me to change my mind about reading fifty shades of grey any. time. i. feel. like. it. also, please note that fifty shades of grey and dan brown and sophie kinsella are all symbols in this blog post. don't be so literal.
also please visit john green's vlog (also with his brother hank - who is also super cool). because it's hilarious. also see nerdfighters; because if i had had that when i was 14, i think i would have rocked my own world instead of hiding in my room all day reading. oh but then you may not have this really poorly updated book blog to read! yeah. let's not talk about it.