Sometimes, when I tell people I like to read I feel a little self-conscious. While in the spotlight, YA is clearly seen as a valid category for adults to be reading. But when talking to my relatives or other older adults, I become somewhat embarrassed to tell them I read mostly YA. Maybe it’s because “Young Adult” is still used in conjunction with “children.” Maybe it’s because I’m no longer a teenager, but I still read “Young Adult.” It also might be because YA is a new, young category. But most of all, I think it has to do with the fact that I’m not reading “classics.” Classics are established. They’ve “been around,” “stood the test of time.” But to be quite frank, I don’t like classic books.
- Note: Actually Frankenstein, To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities were pretty OK.
- Note: “classic,” a term here which means “books people generally read in high school or come up when you type “classic” into Google.”
Someone once suggested to me, the term “classic book” means books people want to have read, but don’t want to read.
I have no desire to read Dickens, Brontë, Tolstoy, Twain, etc. The idea of reading the full-unabridged War and Peace didn’t appeal to me as much as having read the whole thing. But try as I might, I’ve never lasted more than a few paragraphs before I gave Austen up (except when I had to read Pride and Prejudice for school). I remember borrowing Les Miserables when I was about 14 from my public library. I think I lasted a few sentences. I started reading Romeo and Juliet and I fell asleep; literally, with my head on my computer and all (I was reading it on my computer Kindle app).
In high school, most people read “the classics:” Tom Sawyer, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and the like. But I read mostly non-classic books. In my high school English class, I read The Kite Runner, When the Emperor Was Divine, The Joy Luck Club and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Although we read some “classics;” Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, The Odyssey, we also read more recent, diverse books; and they were all amazing. They all discussed different viewpoints and explored themes such as redemption, prejudice, family and mental illness. A majority of high schools read classic books with the exact same themes (Crime and Punishment, Mansfield Park, Little Women and Frankenstein respectively). My point being, lessons aren’t exclusive to classic books. While it’s good to read classic books, it’s good to read YA and contemporary/modern books too.
For some reason, these “classics” seem to have more sway in the “real world” a term here which means outside of the bookternet sphere. As if the lack of time a book has spent on a shelf invalidates its importance or themes. The books written now have themes just as deep and as important, and YA is no exception. For a time, I thought reading old books—about people and places that no longer exist or never existed in the first place—made me more of a reader. I thought those older books were more valid than the ones written now. Which I now believe is not true. All books and stories are valid. I don’t think “classic” books aren’t good. I just think they aren’t for me.
So what do you think? Do you have to read classics to be considered a “deep” reader? Or can you learn the same lessons from YA as classics? Should EVERYONE read classics? Or is reading books in general enough?