There has been a lot of talk lately in the book community about a certain article that spoke disparagingly about adults who read YA (Young Adult) categorized books. I’m not going to link to that article because I don’t want to promote their foolishness, which I’m pretty sure was mostly hyped up just to get more readers. (Create a controversy and people will jump in to boost your viewing stats.)
I just want to talk about reading in general. What should we read? Should we be judged for reading certain things?
I recently had an experience where I was judged and insulted for stating that I did not like “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann. I filmed an unfavorable review of that book, and someone commented, “You should go read Hunger Games.” The implication being that only a stupid person wouldn’t like Thomas Mann and stupid people only read YA.
Enough with the shaming already! Anybody who reads anything anywhere… good for you! You are reading! No matter what you read, you are already smarter and classier than the millions of people who choose not to read. Your life is enriched by your reading, and that is all that matters. Don’t let anyone insult your choice of books.
The Definition of YA
First of all, you can’t judge a book by its genre. Not all books in a genre are going to be good. There will be good and bad and in between books in every genre on the planet.
Secondly, “Young Adult” is NOT a genre. It is an age group, designated from 16 to 25 years old as the target audience, but not the only audience. One of the benefits of categorizing books by age group is that the content is censored. I know that if I pick up a YA categorized book, there will be limited violence, no profanity, and no sexual content. I can safely read that book, because I know what to expect.
The best reading list includes books from many different perspectives, ages, and backgrounds. A variety of style and content is healthy for my brain, keeps my interest, and can match my moods. So read YA at any age! Read classics, mystery, adventure, travel, fantasy, sci-fi… Read everything!
Why Do We Read?
It really all comes down to WHY we are reading. If we are reading to impress others with our book repertoire or to somehow validate our self-worth by proving that we read the “right” books, then we are opening a whole Pandora’s box of judgement and hate. But if we are reading to be entertained, to learn something new, to connect with things from a new perspective, then we are doing exactly what God created us to do. There’s a reason the Bible is told in stories, because stories are how we relate to the world.
Freedom to Read
God gave us the freedom to just BE ourselves, and that includes reading things we like, regardless of the fatuous opinions of others. We are all different, and we will like different things. We should have the freedom to politely express our dislikes and our likes without fear of judgement.
“People who are different from you aren’t stupid. They’re just other people… who aren’t you.” – Gwendolyn Reading Method
What Should We Read?
So what do we do with all this freedom? We can do anything, read anything, like or dislike anything! The whole world of books is open to us! How do we choose what to read? Are there still some books that we shouldn’t read?
Thankfully, we have an easy list given to us by our Creator to tell us what to read!
Phillipians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Within those parameters, read anything that captures your fancy! All really great stories that stir our hearts are in some small way a reflection of the Great Story.
(I take the word “true” in the verse to mean “things that are in line with God’s ideas,” as in “true or loyal to the ways of God”. I’m not saying we should only read non-fiction. God gave us an imagination for a reason.)
“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened, and its deepest mystery probed?” – Annie Dillard
If you can find beauty in a book of any genre, read it. If your life is heightened by a book from any age group, read it. If you find a wonder and awe in exploring the depths of any book, read it. Just read. And ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.