I mean, we have to be able to narrow down our reading lists somehow, right?
- Anything written by the men named in the SCBWI comments. Which isn’t a sacrifice and (alas?) doesn’t trim my tbr list by much, as I hadn’t heard most of them. Either I’m ignorant (possible) or, more likely, they aren’t as outstanding in their field as they’d like to think.
- Most of the so-called classics. For many years I felt that I ought to read the “canon”, partly for my own improvement, partly out of anxiety that if I hadn’t read all these important authors I wasn’t good enough/qualified as a student of English literature, and partly because of literary snobs I ran into in university and after. But I’m not interested in those books. I may read them someday, but I can do better now by reading the literature that is still growing and brilliant and vibrantly reflective – representative, critical – of the whole world. This is immensely more absorbing. Book snobs are dead to me: they pose as intelligentsia but are neither intelligent, loving, nor courageous; their opinions don’t matter anymore.
- (That said, I’m very selective and critical myself; but my criteria are largely based on what the story says about people, the world, the way things are, (etc.) and on whether it does this effectively or not; not on whether the title in question was written by a sufficiently deceased cis* white man of wealth and landed property in western Europe or the USA.) (*also, straight and able-bodied, unless sufficiently wealthy and/or aristocratic that fellow absurdly wealthy peers are willing to overlook these things.) (Also, on whether I enjoyed the book or not. Don’t bore me. Just saying.)
- (I’m totally a book snob. I just don’t think you are an inferior being if your taste in books doesn’t coincide with mine.)
- The Golden Bough by whatshisface Frazer. Gordon Frazer. Sir somebody Frazer. Jamie? Darn it! Anyway, very very famous look at mythologies and whatnot. Remains slightly more intriguing than The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, (I think it’s Joseph), which I started during my undergrad. It was wonderful, you know, all the ideas leaping off the page. You the writer could take any given line on a page and see new stories of your own imagination unfurling before you, new worlds rich as pomegranates. Not sure why I didn’t finish it, didn’t even check it out from the library. I think it would be fascinating to have as a writer’s resource, a great group challenge: you all read one page (any page) and write from whatever ribbon draws you; but I would be wary of reading the whole, now. It would be too easy to slip into (under) the enchantment and forget that this is the work of one person, one human as flawed as the rest of us; and that whatever bewitching insights and possibilities the book holds are descriptive from a particular perspective; not absolute truth, not prescriptive. Books like that are all too easy to read as prescriptive because they are descriptive, instead of descriptive but not the whole story, not quite, not ever.
There are many many many MANY in this pile because as I change as a person, my reading tastes also change and the books I used to want to read become books I no longer want to read.
Rather than naming names, let me just talk about the books that no longer appeal to me.
- Ones that are written by white men.
Also known as ones that are force fed to you if you are an English lit major. They have had their time in the limelight. It is now time for different narratives and different perspectives. I don’t want to look at the world from the privileged eye of a white man.
- Ones that are problematic.
I am not going to forgive problematic elements in a book if it is well written. If it disrespects a certain people or misrepresents a certain culture, if it appropriates cultures or uses slurs. I don’t care if the book is well written and technically excellent. I really don’t. If it harmful in any way, I am not going to read it and I am going to speak out against it. Because these things hurt–especially in children’s lit.
- Ones that lack representation.
I have spent an awful lot of time reading books by and about people who may not even consider me and mine sub-human. Those times are gone.
- Ones that do not respect the readers’ intelligence.
- Ones that do not celebrate the female experience.
This is a personal preference. I like female protagonists though it’s not like I never read books with male protagonists.
Some of these I picked because the hype just left me, some of these I picked because I didn’t hear favourable things about them, and some that I just can’t prioritize because there are so many new books omg: