The Legal Age for Reading

It’s not what you think.

Back in May, New York Times columnist Joel Stein published a small tidbit called “Adults Should Read Adult Books,” saying that adults should read to learn, to appreciate material written for adults, by adults. He equated adults reading books written for younger audiences to playing three hours of Donkey Kong.

I’m not going to go into why this is fairly ridiculous. Well, okay, just a little bit:
1) Imagine missing out on Alice in Wonderland. You’re over 18? Too bad for you.
2) Romance novels qualify as fiction written by adults for adults.
3) Narnia. Harry Potter. Ender Wiggin. Lemony Snicket. A Wrinkle in Time.

So he’s saying that after someone reaches voting age, they shouldn’t ever go back and read those again unless they’re reading them to children?

To be fair, in spirit, I understand what he’s saying–we as adults should still be hungry for reading books that challenge us intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. That use words we might have to look up. That present us with situations prompting healthy, serious discussions with adult friends. That said, I will probably still never even attempt to read Proust, even with its reputation of literary magnificence. But I will still keep working through classics from time to time and keep an eye out for new modern marvels.

But I won’t put some backwards age limit on what to read, and so in the spirit of joyful rebellion, here are the results of a reader survey recently published by NPR: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels. I read through the list and there are so many wonderful books in there, books that I would love to read again, characters I’d love to spend another few hours with. And the ones that I wasn’t familiar with? I just added a bunch of them to my library list, and look forward to curling up with some great new stories.

Some people’s kids. Hope they’re reading these. While they still can.

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Categories: On the Page | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Legal Age for Reading

  1. I wanted to say thank you for the affirmation that reading books outside of my usual adult-centred genre is ok. On an intellectual level, I know this, but sometimes my inner policeperson just takes over. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Pingback: Perspicacity Jones « The Aardvark's Bizarre

  3. Great information. Lucky me I came across your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

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