I'm new in Seattle, so I'm wading through the social structure looking for kindred spirits.
This week, when I finished the public draft of my manuscript, I needed to celebrate with someone. I shared the good news with an acquaintance and she was ecstatic.
"Tell me about this book!"
"It's contemporary YA about a guy whose mom is murdered on graduation day."
Her transformation was immediate: blank eyes, fake smile, squared shoulders. "I only read books for grown ups." And then she glanced furtively, as if the book police would arrest her for talking about YA.
I can't befriend a book shamer. I'm not embarrassed of what I write or what I read.* Here's a sample:
That's just one shelf of the 36ish in my house. (I'm not counting the children's shelves.)
I'm not ashamed of the YA or the commercial fiction. I don't need to justicy the Griffen & Sabine trilogy (though really, the letters! The envelopes! I swoon.) I also don't feel compelled to explain the two copies of The Time Traveler's Wife (or the other three copies floating around my house.) Hey, there is American Erotica on the shelf, too. (Also, I hadn't realized how similar the spines are for I Thought My Father Was God and In a Sunburned Country.)
I thought about cropping out the shelf below for aesthetic reasons, but why? It elaborates on the story. Liberating Grammar, written by one of my favorite college professors, is quite good. You probably recognize the Harry Potters (including an English, i.e. Not American version. There's a story behind that one.) What else is down there? More Bill Bryson, The Help, Erich Segal's Love Story. (There's a story behind that, too. Two stories, actually.)
I'm not ashamed of any of that. I didn't remove a single book from that shelf. (In the interest of full disclosure, note that I did remove a chocolate bar from the shelf. When Dove milk chocolate is found in the house, it's a sign. It was delish.)
I'll photograph every shelf in my house if you want. (Hey, that would be fun! Take photos of your closest book shelf and share it!)
Read what you love. Graphic novels ring your chimes? Go for it. You only like 18th century French literature? Bon appetit. Everything by Stephen King and no one else? Go ahead and scare the crap out of yourself again and again.
Being ashamed of what you read is one step removed from lying about who you are. Read what you love. It's the literate equivalent of letting your freak flag fly.
Don't be ashamed of what you loathe, either. I could never get into David Foster Wallace, no matter how hard I tried. Most fantasy is just not for me. Ditto space operas. Most of Shakespeare, even though they might revoke my bachelor's degree for admitting it.
I love lots of different kinds of books. I love adult contemporary. And I love really good science fiction. I love nonfiction. I love reading middle grade books (Is 2008 ready to read The Penderwicks yet?) and I love reading YA.
I love writing YA. In fact, I am happier writing YA than I ever was writing adult contemporary.
We've gone round and round the Internets about books for boys, books for girls, books for grown ups. It's all BS, people.
Books are for readers. Read on.
*I am, however, somewhat ashamed that I haven't organized my books in the eight weeks since we moved in.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: