Tag Archives: reading

Where Have All the Good (Young) Men Gone?

I don’t know if you’ve heard it yet, but there’s been something of a buzz going around the internet about YA books lately.

(Apparently YA stands for “Young Adult”, and not “Yankee Angler” as I had previously supposed. This might explain why my previous attempts at writing YA literature failed so miserably.)

The buzz started as a low thrumming sound surrounding this article published by the Wall Street Journal which implied that maybe YA books had become too dark over the past few years. The buzz increased to a cacophony when Chuck Wendig released his tiny leather winged minions to roam the Twitterverse with his message of “Hey, adolescence is very likely going to be the darkest time of these kids lives, why shouldn’t their books reflect that?”

For what it’s worth I’m sort of in the middle on this issue. I think that writers should be able to write what they want to write and parents should be able to draw the boundary lines for their children and have the intestinal fortitude to enforce those lines. Stop trying to get the school to do your dirty work for you, parents (a mantra that applies to far more than this.)

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. I think in all of this hullabaloo about darkness in YA we’re missing a far more vital problem.

This problem can be summed up in this one picture:

Look at that picture. Look at it long and hard.

This is a picture I took of the book nook at the Wal-Mart where I work. This is the entirety of the YA section. This is the place where Wal-Mart consolidates all of the most popular books in the nation into one tiny little microcosm of the book selling industry.

Notice anything strange?

Not yet?

Keep looking….there! See it?

There’s no books for dudes! Not one!

Now I’m not saying this is Wal-Mart’s fault. They’re just buying the books that are big sellers. But what’s up with this? Why aren’t my slightly younger brethren sinking their teeth into daring accounts of manly exploits in fantastic places with the same ferocity as the females our the species seem to bestow on brooding tales of dark romance with forbidden creatures?

Have all the men migrated to their game consoles to control space marines with their thumbs, leaving behind the kinds of stories with “words” and “pages” to be completely overrun by the fairer sex? I don’t know. And frankly maybe this isn’t a new phenomenon. But it doesn’t seem like so long ago, that Harry Potter (Harry not being short for Harriett in this case) enchanted the world with his wizardly exploits.

I’m not trying to be sexist here, but the inequality of the situation astounds me. Because if guys aren’t reading when they’re young, then what’s the likelihood they’re going to start later?

I don’t have the answers. Maybe you do. Please to leave a comment and enlighten me with your wisdom.

This Title Is Really Long, Which Is Ironic, Because The Post Is About Brevity, So You’d Think The Title Would Be Short Too, But Nope It Just Goes On And On And On Until It-


Yes, I’m going there. Because I think it’s important

1. This is your blog, not your magnum opus.

You got something to say, go ahead and say it, but do you really have enough substance to fill up a thousand words?

And don’t get me wrong, the answer may be, “Why yes as a matter of fact, I do Albert.” Which is fine and all, but there’s no actual obligation to give us the epic version of whatever it is you want to say. You may think, “Oh, but all this stuff is really important” and it may well be important. So split it into more than one post. Why? Because…

2. I have ADD.

Well, that may be a bit misleading. I haven’t been diagnosed or anything. Lets just lay I’m easily distracted, yes?

You’re expecting an “Ooh, shiny object” joke here. This is me subverting your expectations.

Something specifically about reading off of a computer screen is incredibly difficult for me. I know not everyone suffers from this problem. A friend of my can read through entire books on her computer screen. I can’t.

Should you cater your blog just to me? Well no. That’s what this blog is for. But I’m pretty sure not the only one who doesn’t want to read massive text blocks on his computer screen.

3. No one cares.

Seriously no one is impressed by long blog posts. Back when I first started blogging I was still learning this principle, and I had some posts that stretched on for upwards of a thousand words. No once, not once, did anyone comment and say “Woah, Albert, congratulations on writing such a long post.”

And now that I’ve started writing short posts, no one has said, “You know, Albert, I really miss when you used to go on and on and on. Your shorter posts aren’t nearly as good.”

Longer posts are not better posts.

4. Don’t listen to me.

Remember yesterday, when we talked about finding your voice? That applies here too. If you’re in love with writing long blog posts, don’t let me try to change who you are. That may be part of your identity as a writer.

Then again, It may not be. I only ask is that you consider it.

All I can show you is the world as I see it. I’m certainly not the only perspective in town.

Differently Normal

I always used to pick on my friend [name omitted], because he’s very particular about the things he likes. Specifically, if a lot of other people like it, he doesn’t like it. I never used to understand this.

“But [name omitted]*,” I’d tell him. “If it’s good, it doesn’t matter how many people like it. Good is good right?”

But he’d always stick to his guns, and I’d always leave feeling a little confused.

Well, yesterday I got a little taste of his perspective.

Allow me to set the scene. I was shopping in Target a while back when I came across a book simply titled Room. I picked up the book, read the synopsis, and thumbed through the first few pages. In that span of time, I was hooked. I knew I had to own that book. So I went home and logged on to Amazon to order it with the gift card my parents gave me for Christmas. I thought I might even feature it in the Bizzaro Book Review since it was such a wonderfully unique concept.

Fast-forward a few days. I was walking into Walmart to clock in with the book in my hands and some random stranger stopped long enough to tell me “That’s an amazing book.”

Okay, cool. Most of the people I see at work don’t strike me as reading types, so it’s nice to connect with another librophile.

Then on my lunch break I checked my tweets and there wass one from someone talking about how much they were enjoying reading Room. Okayyy. Coincidences happen right? I mean I’m not the only person reading the book in the world.

But when I’m going to clock out the big bomb dropped. One of the girls who works the night shift saw the book in my hand and said, “Oh hey, I heard on the news that was supposed to be a great book.”

The news? They’re talking about it on the news? At this point I started to get a sinking feeling. I didn’t know this was going to be a popular book. I mean, If everyone is reading it, it means I’m not special anymore, right?

It took me almost until I got home to realize I was taking the exact same position my friend [name omitted] had taken about various movies and comic books, and I further realized that I needed to take the same advice that I had given him. I didn’t fall in love with the book because it made me unique or special. I fell in love with the book because it seemed like a really interesting story told with a unique voice. If everyone in the world was reading the book, it shouldn’t make a difference. Twilight aside, popularity does not automatically imply poor quality.

But it is easy to fall into the lone wolf trap from time to time. We all like to feel like we’re discovering something that everyone else is too blind to see; we love feeling special and unique. But the truth is we’re not special or unique. Well, I’m not anyway. I’ve got my quirks, and I don’t see eye to eye with everybody on everything, but when you dig right down the the core of my humanity I’m not that much different than anyone else out there.

Maybe that’s why I like Room so much. Because I want to be different, just like everyone else.

*Conversing with [name omitted] is an exercise in verbal gymnastics. It’s really hard to pronounce those brackets.

On the Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Librophilia

This year I resolved to read one book for every week of the year.  Not every book had to be read within a week’s time but they all had to be finished before the end of the year.  Today I am proud to report that as of this morning I have completed my goal.  Below is a list of all the books I finished this year listed in the order in which I read them.

1. Dark House by I. A. R. Wylie

2. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

3. History in English Words by Owen Barfield

4. Field of Dishonor by David Weber

5. Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida

6. Poetic Diction by Owen Barfield

7. The Terror by Dan Simmons

8. Flag in Exile by David Weber

9. Towards Morning by I. A. R. Wylie

10. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

11. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

12. Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones

13. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway

14. The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz

15. World War Z by Max Brooks

16. Beasts of New York by Jon Evans

17. One Good Turn by Witold Rybcynski

18. Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield

19. Writing Blunders and How to Avoid Them by Alfred Noble

20. Group Theory in the Bedroom by Brian Hayes

21. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

22. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

23. The Strange Case of Mortimer Fenley by Louis Tracey

24. Blindsight by Peter Watts

25. The Confession by Mary R. Rinehart

26. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

27. The Art of Making Money by Jason Kersten

28. Echo Park by Micheal Connelly

29. The Stuff of Thought by Stephen Pinker

30. In Enemy Hands by David Weber

31. Horns by Joe Hill

32. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carol

33. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

34. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

35. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

36. When Graveyards Yawn by G. Wells Taylor

37. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

38. Caught in the Web of Words by K. M. Elizabeth Murray

39. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

40. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

41. The Truth by Terry Pratchett

42. John Dies at the End by David Wong

43. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

44. The Variant Effect by G. Wells Taylor

45. The Machine of Death by Various Authors

46. The Bog Monster of Booker Creek by Wayne Miller

47. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

48. Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

49. Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede by Bradley Denton

50. Menagerie by G. Wells Taylor

51. Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

52. Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

I’m not sure if I’ll do something like this again next year.  As satisfying as it is to have read all those books, there were some times when the pressure to keep up with my goal took away from the enjoyment of reading.  Having said that, I’m really glad I completed my resolution.  Looking back on all I’ve accomplished helps me to remember how valuable one year really can be.