|Charlemagne is skeptical of these arguments.|
On the other hand, YA books are probably too violent for actual teens and may encourage them to be violent. (From which it follows that the 70s and 80s must have seen a huge rise in teen incest and axe murder--after all, every kid I knew read almost nothing but VCA and/or Stephen King.)
Science fiction has way too much gender binaryism, which needs to be stamped out. "SF that presents a rigid, unquestioned gender binary is false and absurd"--which assumes some things that I don't think are actually true, and ignores the plain fact that SF has always played with every cultural rule and permutations of gender--more than any other genre. If you wish to encourage more, fine, but there's no need to scold everyone who doesn't happen to be doing that in every story.
Rick Riordan is probably feeding kids intellectual pap that will keep them from ever reading anything more complex. You'd better start requiring them to read books they don't like so they can read Henry James later on. (Oddly, this was a response to a Neil Gaiman talk about letting children read what they want.)
At the very least, if you start a book, you had jolly well better finish it, or else. Not finishing books is not allowed; you should develop character and show respect for the author by finishing the book you start, even if you hate it.
There are more, usually articles lamenting that people read for entertainment and that they don't read enough Henry James. I don't know why Henry James gets cited so often, but he does. We could have a whole discussion about each of these, but I'm going to go all meta on you. It seems to me that the overarching theme here is that some people seem to think that reading has rules. Or it should have rules. This is sometimes called the "literature as broccoli" approach: reading is good for you and you should read it so you will be healthy, whether you like it or not. It treats leisure reading like assigned reading for school.
Now, it is certainly my belief that some books are of a better quality than others. I am not post-modern enough to argue that a werewolf romance is, aesthetically and morally speaking, just as good as King Lear. Some books are more challenging, more morally interesting, or more beautifully written than others.
But reading is one of the most individual and deeply personal activities we can engage in, and everyone is going to experience a book a little differently. Once I open a book, it's just me and the author. The author lays some ideas out, and I think about them. It's likely that 95% of my reaction will never be recorded anywhere but in my own mind, and some of it might not go into words. I don't think we can make rules about something that individual.
Reading cannot be planned and evaluated according to a nutritional pyramid chart for the mind. Are we talking about reading and loving literature and expanding our horizons and exploring strange new worlds, or are we talking about a forced march to attain an arbitrary standard of mental virtue and fortitude set by someone else? What gives 'someone else' that power?
|Doesn't work for books. (Doesn't *entirely* work for food.)|
I love to see people reading interesting and challenging books, but nobody can dictate which books qualify for that or what people should read. There just should not be rules about reading. We all get to choose for ourselves, whether we want to relax at the end of a difficult day, learn something new, or explore complex ideas. I decide what challenges I want to set for myself; that's what makes it fun.
Reading these articles makes me wonder why they get written so often. Have we gotten so used to following rules, taking tests, and checking off lists of achievements that it seems like a good idea to have standardized standards for leisure reading too? Is this what you get if people think programs like Accelerated Reader are a good idea? Does somebody out there want to certify and quantify and make a graph to file away in a government report? I suppose it's really that people like to tell other people what to do and show off their smart-person credentials, but I do not approve.
The Classics Club has a tagline for the Spin. The Spin is a game we play with ourselves and each other, and the admins always finish with "as always, the prize is the reading experience." That sums it up for me. When we read, our reward is the reading. There is no certificate, no outside standard to reach, no finish line. There is just the freedom to read what we like, and have thoughts about it. No rules needed.