|I hope this is Fortitude because I am not the most patient person.|
|I pretty much started crying as I read this letter.|
|Used books, and me with just a carry-on suitcase. Sadness.|
I also read four books, three by Sarah Dessen and one by Holly Black. And these books, plus my library tourism and a lot of time on my hands lead me to think about literacy, on it's place in societies and in people's lives, etc. etc. Also, I was fervently trying not to think about the Italian couple who were my rowmates on the flight from Newark to Phoenix and who, at random intervals, would noisily smooch. Not that I'm a prude, but really, please do not noisily smooch when you are three inches away from me and I am trying to sleep.
Yes, I was thinking about books and my system for reviewing. Really, I understand that reviews are mostly meaningless. A plot summary is helpful, but Amazon or Goodreads or the book jacket helpfully provide those. What is more important is the relationship you have with the story. Because reading is a relationship between the reader and the story and between the reader and the author. Or maybe a conversation is a better word. Metaphors are tricky, but you get that the act of reading is more than just decoding symbols. That's why literacy classes and skills are vital through all school levels.
To put it much more better-er than I can, here's something from fangirl favorite John Green:
"Literacy is important. Literacy is vital, but literacy is not the finish line. Literature is not just in the business of See Jane Run. Literature is in the business of helping us to imagine ourselves and others more complexly, of connecting us to the ancient conversation about how to live as a person in a world full of other people."
But how do you talk about that? Because I want to talk about books. I want to share what I read with other people. But a ten star rating system just doesn't cut it. And a ten star, or twenty star, or billion star rating system limits. And I limit myself when I think in terms of "this is this sort of book I read" and "this is not the sort of book I normally read." I mean sure, there are definite trends in my reading, but if I look at the trends and not the stories, then I end up missing out on a lot of good stuff, or being ashamed to like something because "it's just not the sort of thing I like." Too often, we equate what we like with who we are.
Again, from John Green (quoted in the same blog as above):
"Too many times, we say to our young people, “Hey, read this. It’s a fun read. Not too serious, you know. None of that English stuff.” As if there is some kind of dichotomy between good and fun. As if Gatsby is oatmeal and vampires are Lucky Charms. Vampires, of course, ARE Lucky Charms—they are magical and delicious and just dangerous enough to excite me. I love vampires, and I love vampire books. And please know that I would never argue against putting books kids want to read in their hands. But I am arguing that we need to make space in our classes—no matter how advanced or remedial the students—for ambitious novels. Because good is not the opposite of fun. Smart is not the opposite of fun. Boring is the opposite of fun, and when we create the smart/fun dichotomy, what we end up implying is that Gatsby is boring."
If we hope to make spaces in our classrooms and libraries for smart books, then we have to make space in our own reading as well. And we have to make space for fluff and fun and vampires and history and science and all that jazz. Except for zombies. I know that zombies are really the most perfect metaphor, but they still scare me, and I'm okay keeping zombies outside my mental fortress. Damn zombies. Stay off my lawn!
In all seriousness, I want to try to talk about books in a more expansive way, but I also want to keep things below philosophical treatise level. I mean, it's just a blog, kids. It's not a dissertation. To that end, I'm going to try a few things out. I really want to steal Forever Young Adult's book review format. I especially like the BFF charm section, because if I can't find anything to like in a character, I will give up on the story. (I'm looking at you, Catherine and Heathcliff.) But since stealing is wrong, this is what I have so far.
I've been working on decluttering my life on a number of levels, including my possessions. I only own about 30 books at the moment. I used to have over 600. So I've come up with four metaphorical shelves for the books I read.
Home Library books are books I will keep forever. They get to stay with me, move with me, even if I move overseas. Anne of Green Gables and Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet are solidly in this category.
Recent Returns books are books I read once, maybe twice, and probably won't read again. In fact, I didn't even keep the book for my allotted four weeks. Which is not to say I didn't enjoy my time with the book. I probably read it right away, polished it off in a day or two, but once the story is over, then I'm ready to move on.
Renewals are books that I'm not ready to put on the home shelf, but I loved the stories and either kept them around or checked them out several times. Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tale books live on this shelf.
File 13 books are those I wish I could throw away. I can't think of many books that will end up here as I generally don't finish books that I really dislike, and I'm trying to not be ashamed of the books I do read. I imagine bodice ripper romance novels would end up on this list, but I haven't read one of those in ages. Truly. There are much better kissing books than Harlequins around (hello, Outlander series).
I know I don't need a gimmicky rating or sorting system, but I like systems, so we'll see how this one goes, starting with the Sarah Dessen books I read on vacay.