I’m sure most of you have already seen Joel Stein’s controversial article over at the New York Times, where he argues, among other things, that adults shouldn’t read fiction written for children (which presumably, in his world, are books that are intellectually and artistically inferior to books written for adults).
I shared the article with my students today, since we were talking about argument, and specifically, about identifying assumptions (those unstated premises for arguments). Stein’s argument was great for this, since there were so many assumptions that I didn’t agree with.
1. Obviously, I don’t think that YA books are intellectually inferior to adult books. It’s impossible to wholesale compare groups that are so heterogeneous. Some adult books *are* better than many YA books (George Elliot’s Middlemarch was transformative for me). But some YA books are similarly better than many adult books on the market. It all depends on the books. Stein’s position smacks of intellectual snobbery to me. I prefer to read good books, no matter how they might be classified.
2. Stein also argues that people read books *only* to learn (or, that’s the only legitimate reason for reading). Another assumption I don’t buy. If people watch movies and play games for down-time, some people (me!) also read books for intellectual down time. This doesn’t mean I don’t also read serious books (I picked up De Certeau’s Practices of Everyday Life on the way home from campus today), but I also like to enjoy my reading. Many people have also pointed out that parents enjoy reading children’s books to a) know what their kids are reading and b) have something to talk about with their kids–another perfectly legitimate reason for reading.
I could go on, but I’d rather hear what you think. Have you noticed a difference in quality between those adult books you’ve read and “children’s books”? If you’ve read Stein’s article, what did you think of it?