Do You Read “Young?”

19 Jul
Pan depicted on the cover of The Wind in the W...

Pan depicted on the cover of The Wind in the Willows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several weeks back I read an article in the Reading Matters section of one of my favorite websites, MercatorNet. Titled “Books of Innocence and Experience,” it was about how more adults these days seem to be reading books intended for the young adult market, books like the “Harry Potter” series, or “Hunger Games.” I would go so far as to say that some adults are even reading what might be classified as children’s books. I know that within the past year I’ve read both. From “The Wind in the Willows” to “The Hobbit” to “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” I find these “young” books to be more engaging, interesting and with more intriguing ideas than a large number of so-called “adult contemporary” fiction.

The author of the article, Clare Cannon, points out that “contemporary adults’ novels offer weird and wonderful stories that try to make up for a lack of hope and ideals with bizarre twists and extreme experiences, or with the smashing of taboos and guilt which they blame for killing the happiness that their ‘liberal’ experiences should have given them.

“That is why so much of it is just plain depressing, even if many people find it addictive.”

I found evidence of this in last weekend’s book review section of the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed two new novels which “ponder the courtship habits of neurotic millenials in Brooklyn and Silicon Valley.” No thrill going up my leg over those. According to Ms Cannon there are many books on the market today that are “just plain depressing.”

So why are people reading these kinds of books? If anyone out there has any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Personally, I have no clue. But if they’re leading more people to read young adult and children’s books, maybe they’re serving a purpose after all.

Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Children's Books, Ideas, Worries


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8 responses to “Do You Read “Young?”

  1. Debra

    July 20, 2013 at 7:36 am

    I agree with you Rob, and I still love to read the ‘young-uns’ books-over and over!

    • Rob

      July 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Thank you, Debra. I think there’s a place in all of us where the “young-uns” still live and crave the good tales of youth and hope. They deserve to be read again and again, especially as we grow older. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  2. khhsocratica

    July 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I do read all kinds of fiction, but with a healthy dose of YA and children’s books mixed in. I think the article you found is spot on, at least for me. Contemporary adult novels “try to make up for a lack of hope and ideals” with other distracting things*(which are plenty amusing, and interesting, and thought-provoking), and I think it follows that the children and young adult books have those very doses of “hope and ideals” that we need and aren’t getting enough of elsewhere. I wouldn’t want to read *only* books for kids, but I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

    *Recent adult books I read included discussions about: job dissatisfaction, divorce, the inner thoughts of a killer, addiction, and gratitude (okay, that last one was uplifting, but the others are pretty grim)
    Recent kids’ books I read dealt with: being loyal to your friends, being brave, finding your true home, and a fight against injustice (pretty appealing stuff, all of them).

    • Rob

      July 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Hello, KHH. You really are a reader, aren’t you? I’m afraid contemporary adult novels hold no appeal for me, so maybe my criticisms aren’t that valid. But from reading reviews I get an idea of the kinds of themes writers are exploring these days. It’s not encouraging. As our culture grows more secular I sense a darker vision of life advancing.

      I do agree with you that we can’t read only children’s books. That wouldn’t be healthy either. However, they can help protect us against the cynicism that’s all too common these days.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’ll be over to Socratica later. Education is one of my key interests these days and your blog looks very interesting!

  3. jubilare

    September 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I think that a truly good book for “children” is harder to write than a good book for adults. The reason is that they tend to speak to all age-groups, and that is hard to do. I love reading such books.
    However, there is a lot of YA literature out there that I don’t think is well-written, and its appeal is more mysterious to me. But then I’m a lit-snob (I admit it!). Many people enjoy reading books I can’t stand, so I’m not a good judge.

    • Rob

      September 4, 2013 at 12:17 am

      You should read this piece by Meghan Cox Gurdon from 2 years ago in the WSJ: There is a darkness growing in the YA field. Well, honestly, in a lot of today’s “literature.” Gurdon is a very good writer and thinker. Read it and let know what you think.

      • jubilare

        September 4, 2013 at 3:27 am

        Mm… I’m rather torn on that issue, to be honest. I find the level of darkness, and its pervasiveness, disturbing. But at the same time, I feel the need to push against sanitizing influences that want to water down Grimm’s Fairytales, or ban To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn because of their depictions of racism.
        I can’t say “such and such books shouldn’t be on shelves” because I don’t want someone saying “To Kill a Mockinbird can’t be on the shelves.” Also, there is the fact that my own reading experience has, at times, been shaped for the better by books that disturb me. But my reading was balanced out, and disturbing books were the exception, not the rule. As the exception, they probably had more useful impact and did less damage.
        Writing my own stories is probably the best thing I can do (at least until/unless I have children of my own, and can guide their reading).
        I’m reminded of a quote I’ve used before on my blog:

        The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work. The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring. That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you. When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.

        -Tycho, from Penny Arcade

        The antidote for this trend is at our fingertips, quite literally. We won’t win the battle with everyone, but in the way we Christians are to reckon things, every individual victory is more than worth the fighting.

  4. Rob

    September 6, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I think you hit it when you mentioned the “level of darkness.” A bit of darkness is good in all forms of literature, but when it sinks to the level of the obscene or the perverse, and when a culture develops a “taste” for that, then we’re in big trouble. I also think you’re correct that we as Christians need to focus on individual victories.

    The fight goes on.


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