Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Stick to Your List, I'll Stick to Mine

Last week several newspapers and what not published "Summer Reading Lists." I was too busy doing the job I'm actually paid to do, so I couldn't join in on the conversation that broke out on Twitter, but I did read my time line enough to know that people can find something offensive in anything.

Roy L. Pickering, author of Patches of Grey, who blogs over at A Line A Day, answered a question posed by another user.

Fair enough. Question asked and answered.  Then Roy's latest post showed up in my reader and it was apparent that he really had issues with books being labeled summer reads.  What gives?  He commented that he didn't read brainless books and he'd prefer not to get dumber over the summer. Really?  There are books that I classify as summer reads, not because they're not smart books or are part of the dumbing down of America, they just tend to match the lighter mood that I find myself in during the summer.  I wouldn't call any of them brainless though.

While I can understand Pickering's fear that this is yet another classification placed on books, I'd say it's a sub-genre and not the overall genre of any book.  I also feel that there are some books that are decidedly meant to be read at certain times when you're in a certain mood.  For example, last summer I tried to read Sapphire's The Kid, the sequel to Push.  If you read Push or saw Precious, the movie upon which it was based, you know it was a heavy book with extremely heavy topics.  Within the first few chapters I knew it wasn't something I could read and enjoy while the sun was shining, the birds were singing and kids were out playing.  I could almost imagine the dark gray cloud hovering over my head as I tried to read it.  I moved it to my "to be read much later" shelf and moved on to something that matched my light mood.

Pickering also pointed out that during school days, the summer reading list often included the classics.  I filled my summer with Judy Blume books and Trixie Belden Mysteries when I was in school. I don't recall us having a list.  But thinking back on my daughter's reading list, in high school she had to read books like Toni Morrison's Beloved and, as much as she loves to read, it would take her all summer to make it through a book like that, yet she sped through books on her personal reading list.  Part of it is when we read for enjoyment, we tend to read quicker.  When we read because we have to, it feels like a chore and we drag.  So I don't think you can compare the summer reading lists of school days to a personal summer reading list.  The purposes for reading are too different.

I don't think I'm any less intelligent than someone that spends their summer reading Dostoevsky or Moliere.  If that's what you want to spend your days reading, that's on you.  I'm perfectly happy to spend the warm, sunshine filled days, whether they fall in the summer, spring, fall or winter, with Mary Kay Andrews, Ernessa T. Carter and Ann B. Ross. In summation, a summer reading label doesn't mean strictly summer.  It means, if you're looking for a good book that is likely to enhance your mood, this is the book for you.

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