Last week the Slate Book Review posted an article entitled “Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books“. This seemed particularly well-timed, as I’ve just been reading a number of children’s books in time for the Hull Children’s Book Awards next week, and trying not to wonder what people think about the big bearded guy reading a copy of The Great Ice-Cream Heist on the morning commute.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading YA. I’m also professionally-bound to support anyone in reading anything they damn well please. Maybe if you go to the snobbish effort of assigning some scale of worthiness to every written novel, with John Green and Tom Clancy at one end and Thomas Pynchon and James bloody Joyce at the other, you can allow yourself the prickle of embarrassment when you pick up some YA or the latest summer blockbuster. But a guilty pleasure is still a pleasure.
Yesterday, in a lovely bit of serendipity, I started reading Nick Hornby’s Stuff I’ve Been Reading, a collection of his columns from The Believer. From the opening introduction:
You will probably notice that there are many omissions in both the “Books Bought” and the “Books Read” lists, some of them probably embarrassing, if such a feeling can ever be ascribed to the subject of reading. I haven’t bought some big prizewinners, and I have ignored several influential and much-discussed authors. All I can say is that I haven’t read them, and clearly haven’t wanted to read them. This column — and the magazine in which it appears — doesn’t believe in “oughts” or “shoulds”, words which can never happily be accommodated into thoughts about culture. We believe only in reading, as much as you can, with as much goodwill as you can muster, and in a way which makes the act vitally necessary to you.
Here, I’ve found something about reading that I can support wholeheartedly.
- Header image: The Artist’s Wife (Périe, 1849–1887) Reading, by Albert Bartholomé. Via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.