Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer Reading

I bet I can already guess which book everyone at the airport, on the train, and sitting by the pool will be reading this summer. Though, due to its subject matter, it may be well hidden inside an e-reader. This one is a trilogy (shocker). Any guesses? My own prediction is after the jump.

Last summer, it seemed like everyone was reading "The Hunger Games." The summer before that, everyone was reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its progeny. And before that, "Twilight." (Me? I liked the movies so much better than the books - I didn't even finish "GWTDT" because to me it was begging for some serious condensing, and the violence was too much. I didn't finish "Twilight" because if I'm going to be reading about vampires, I need to be reading about them having wild sex. As for "HG," if I were Katniss I would have had sex with movie Gale looong before those games even started. Run the risk of dying a virgin? Hell to the no. Not after spending so much time alone in the woods with that fine piece. Hard to suspend my disbelief on that one. Where was I? ...)

I want to inquire about your reading habits. How do you decide what you're going to read for pleasure?

I do it two ways: 1) I keep a list of books I want to read, and 2) I'm in two shitty book clubs and I actually do the reading. Also, I only read real books - I don't have an e-reader (not that e-books aren't "real"). Open to conversion someday. Just not now. I use my local public library constantly, and I have my book list uploaded there. They send me an email when something from my list is in. I could also elect to have them mail it to me. They have a drive through book drop. Heaven. They also do e-books, so I can painlessly make the switch someday.

Personally, I don't divide the literary world into "kid stuff" and "adult stuff." I try to remain open to suggestion, and I'll read anything. I won't necessarily finish everything though. But I will give it a fair shake for 75 pages. I'm sure you've heard how Joel Stein caught hell for poking fun at grown-ups who read young adult fiction here:

"I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults."
His brief commentary inspired quite a little debate on the internets. Funny how people think he is "wrong" for having his own personal boundaries about what he will and will not read. I think we all have the right to get irrational when it comes to our opinions on books. Anyway, I love that reading stirs such passion in the American public. Gives me hope for our future.

Summer 2012 reading prediction time.....

I predict everyone will be reading "Fifty Shades of Grey." I understand it's basically "Twilight" fan fiction about S&M. In the last 2 weeks, this book has been recommended to me several times, by some very straight-laced folk. One of my shitty book clubs just added it to our reading list. (This review has inspired me not to read it - be sure to read the comments, there is some damn clever writing in there, too. And this critique is hilarious.)

Instead, I think my inaugural 2012 summer read is going to be a little gem described by a friend I trust to be an underrated classic - "The Dud Avocado." What are your summer reading plans?


nicoleandmaggie said...

I'm saving the last two Diana Wynne Jones books, Earwig and the Witch and Enchanted Glass for my post-labor recovery in the hospital this summer.

YA fiction has been having a lovely renaissance lately, it would be sad to avoid that entire genre!

mom2boy said...

love the comment section of the review!

Got It, Ma! said...

I was, I think, in the minority of people who actually agreed with Stein. Perhaps not with his vehemence (which was, I suspect, more about provoking a reaction than reflective of how he actually feels.) But I definitely feel like I have a lot of grown-up books to get through before I start using my precious reading time for YA fiction. I should qualify that, however, with the admission that I get to read a lot of really fabulous middle grade and YA fiction with my kids.

I know an awful lot of people say that we shouldn't complain about what people are reading, but just be thankful that they're reading at all. But to me that's kind of like saying we shouldn't worry about the quality of food our kids are eating as long as their putting something in their stomachs. The quality of what we feed our bodies and minds with matters and in the same way we want our kids to spend at least some of their reading time on things that push their limits and challenge their abilities, I think we should be doing the same thing as adults.

What I find when I'm reading to my kids is that these talented YA authors are very well-read themselves and are making literary illusions to lots of stuff my kids are too young to know about. I'm constantly stopping to explain the plot and significance of King Lear or Hamlet, or to describe what makes a story "Dickensian" in order to help my kids better understand a story we're reading together. So I think, like many children's movies, an awful lot of middle grade and YA fiction has content that is more readily recognized by parents, which may be one reason it is so appealing to adult readers.

There is some really high quality YA and middle grade fiction out there (I LOVE Jenny Nimmo's Charlie Bone series; the Lightening Thief and it's sequels are fabulous, and I adore Artemis Fowl). I'm glad I get to read them with my kids. But if I'm going to grow as a reader and a thinker I have to push my own limits, and YA fiction, for all it's good qualities, simply does not do that for me. And that's not a failing on its part. It is designed for a less experienced reader, that's all. One who is still learning about plot structures and story arcs and character archetypes.

I have as many guilty reading pleasures as the next person, I'm sure. But I also try to make sure that I intersperse my mystery novels with some more "literary" fiction. Lucky for me there's a lot of overlap in those categories. Kate Atkinson, for example, is genius of intricate plots and beautiful, artful prose. I try to chose at least a couple of things off the short lists of the various literary prizes each year. Sometimes I hate them, or find them beyond my often limited level of focus, but sometimes I end up reading something that I might never have otherwise and loving it, like Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues which was a finalist for the Booker last time around.

YA fiction is, to me, like literary dessert and I really do love dessert. But as an adult, I know I need to eat my vegetable, too. Happily, the thing most of us figure out as adults, I think, is that often those vegetables are pretty damn tasty, too, and often leave you feeling like you've done something good for yourself.

mom2boy said...

Sorry - didn't answer the question.

For pleasure reading, I love books in a series. It is like easy listening music for the eyes. The writing doesn't have to be great, it just can't be awful. (I won't be reading shades of grey.)

The NYT best seller book club list books rarely capture my fancy, I don't know why.

Two of my favorite stand alone novels I had to read in college - In Cold Blood and Cold Mountain. Re Cold Mountain, I don't usually like a lot of descriptive narrative, I often skim past it, but his writing was just so pretty.

Killer Angels made me cry.

When my dad lived closer, I would raid his shelves. I browse Amazon to find new books these days. I have my (now old school) kindle and I read almost all pleasure reading on it.

Cloud said...

Is it sad that I haven't even heard of the book you're predicting will be big? Or does that make me an arugula-munching elitist? Or both?

Anyway, I belong to a not-shitty book club, but it isn't really working for me right now. So I'm thinking I'm going to quit going to it. Which means I have no idea what I'll be reading! Maybe I'll finish Mother Nature. That might take all summer- it is long!

Or maybe I'll go on a Sci Fi kick. My book club won't do Sci Fi, so I have quite a backlog I could catch up on. I've heard good things about Chine Meiville....

nicoleandmaggie said...

I've got some backlogged China Meiville... It's too dark and thinky for me to read during the school year, but maybe I'll be more relaxed come summertime! I have a lot of back-logged darker and thinkier books. Apparently all I can read during the school year is brain popcorn. (My China Meiville backlog, btw, is from his YA stuff... but I have noooo problem with regency romances or werewolf or elf books for adults...)

I also have Willpower and a book I'm supposed to review called Motherhood Online.

Jac. said...

I'm really looking forward to Fifty Shades of Grey. I love me some good erotica.

Laughed so hard at this, "if I'm going to be reading about vampires, I need to be reading about them having wild sex." Me too!

I keep a standing list of books I want to read and order them through my local library. Often, if I'm in a chain bookstore, I'll browse all the new releases, take pics with my phone, and then go home and order them all through the library. Sometimes I get them immediately and sometimes the wait is so long I forget that I ordered it, which I love because getting the notice from the library is like getting a surprise birthday present.

I'll read anything. Literally. I also love a good series. I frequently re-read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and am impatiently awaiting the next one, but it's not supposed to be out until early next year.

The next Sookie Stackhouse book comes out May 1! I really hopes it redeems the last one.

paola said...

I don't usually read books on the Lists. Mainly because up until recently, these books were unavailable to me. I have only just moved to an English Speaking counrty after 13 years and so having a library full of books in English is like being in Willy Wonker's Chocolate Factory. I prefer non-fiction and just flick until I find something I like. Ditto for fiction, when I feel like something lighter.

Vacationland Mom said...

@ hush I will suggest (and you've probably read him already) Christopher Moore. I think you would like him too. If you've already read him, let's discuss :) You should start an online book club for all of us out here who don't have other options! Just sayin...

nicoleandmaggie said...

If you like Christopher Moore, you will love A. Lee Martinez!

Anandi Raman Creath said...

Oh man, I could swear I left a comment but I don't see it.

I strongly dislike Joel Stein after reading his totally racist column he wrote about how his hometown in NJ has been taken over by Indians.

I cannot believe Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular. It looks awful.

I also didn't love Hunger Games, but of course, felt compelled to finish the series.

I have been reading like crazy lately and am now just stuck. Nothing sounds good to me :( So I need to keep browsing until I can find something new.

Vacationland Mom said...

@ nicoleandmaggie: I will check him out!!! Thank you :)

Zenmoo said...

I'm about to start "A visit from the goon squad" by Jennifer Egan - having *finally* finished the history of Jerusalem (bar the end notes, which I will actually read because I'm that kind of person).

I've got a Sony e-reader, but haven't really used it much because I've had paper books to read (and I've taken up crochet, which is quite fun) I'm waiting for our library to get into the Overdrive system. In the meantime, I've got Bleak House by Dickens to read (at the urging of my brother in law). I've also been a bit annoyed that I can't resize the font on a few of the ebooks I've got. The font is too big so I have to page turn *really* frequently and the refresh rate is slow enough to annoy me.

I read a lot of cookbooks - Nigella Express is on my coffee table at the moment. I don't always cook from recipes, but I like to read recipes to get ideas. It is also relatively easy for me to pick up a book from this section of the library because I can see into the children's section from there so I can keep an eye on Moo as she plays with the toys & books.

In terms of deciding what to read, sometimes I just get what ever book my mother has finished with, every so often I go through the library on-line catalogue and do a big order (so like @Jac, sometimes I get a really nice surprise when something I ordered ages ago turns up)

I also look at the Guardian's book lists & reviews - especially around Christmas when my mother delegates the job of choosing everyone's Christmas book to me (my siblings, cousins, aunts & uncles etc all get a book as our Christmas present from my mother. I am charged with suggesting titles and then ordering through Book Depository.)

Caryn Caldwell said...

Ugh. I have a feeling you're right. It's not on my list, though I do admit I'm curious.

I liked Girl with the Dragon Tattoo somewhat, but like you I thought it could use a LOT of editing. Seriously, the guy put in the Ikea catalogue numbers for every single item purchased - and there were a lot of items. Hello, necessary? And there were a ton of characters, many of them unnecessary. It was so hard to keep track of everything when listening to the book on audio (which means no skimming). Took me several months.

Vacationland Mom said...

I love so many books that are for children/young adults, and I have found over the years that:
1. reading them has been an awesome distraction/escape
2. they are just as "intellectual" and stimulating as any "adult" books out there- just because they are written for young people doesn't mean they're dumbed down or have stupid plot lines
3. they remind me of the good times from my childhood

I'm not saying that there aren't some seriously crappy YA books out there because there definitely are. But the Harry Potter books are excellent; they have much to teach even us grown-ups about compassion, patience, friendship, and persistence. I also love the Dido Twite series by Joan Aiken and the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. I did read the first 2 Twilight series books and though I was interested enough to have read them quickly, I didn't think she had a particularly great writing style, nor are her ideas innovative or original in any way. Not everything you read has to blow your mind. How many of us have had the TV on and watched something just "because nothing else is on" and it was total junk that we would never watch if our favorite show was on at the same time? Come on Joel Stein!