Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Don't Care How Many Bats I Have Tattooed on My Person, I Still Do Not Have to Read Dracula

It's kind of a mantra.  I struggle with this deep doubt of my worth as a bookseller, because I read almost exclusively for pleasure, and almost always out of the often shunned genres of: fantasy, young adult, and graphic novels.  I seldom find other things that call to me, but there is this tiny voice that whispers that I'm a bad person for refusing to read non-fiction, or even classic literature.  So I repeat to myself that I don't have to read Dracula.  My goth card will not be revoked if I don't.

Here's the thing.  In the second year after Borders closed, I pledged to read one classic a month for the entire year.  I kicked it off with the most bookseller friendly classic of all time; Fahrenheit 451.  We booksellers love the First Amendment.  Since Fahrenheit 451 is pretty much all about the power of books and not losing them to censorship, I really couldn't think of starting any place else right?

And then I hated it.  I finished it and was pleased with the ending, and was glad that I made it all the way through the book, but it took me almost three weeks to read.  I could read six Jim Butcher novels in that time, and not feel bogged down by a sense of moral obligation to pick up a book.

I kind of imagine this is how non-readers feel all the time.  "I'm not enjoying this, but if people see me holding this, they'll think I'm some sort of savvy intellectual type."  Make no mistake, I definitely felt intellectually superior to everyone walking around with Fifty Shades of Grey (that's when this experiment took place), but I wasn't a very happy reader.

So like 90% of the population, I guiltily abandoned my New Year's Resolution.  I then spent the next 49 weeks reading 83 additional books, including nearly everything Jim Butcher has written (hence the earlier math-those were not random numbers).

So, I learned a lesson.  Classics are not really my thing.  Most of the time I feel okay about it.  I have my handful of go to non-fiction books (I love you Simon Winchester), and I have my token regular fiction book (The Bean Trees).  I also have a trove of recommendations based on the 50 hours a week I spend selling books to other people ("What are the last three books you loved," isn't just to help you find your next favorite book.  It's also to help the person who has read it already.).  But there's this voice that whispers (usually after someone gives me a scornful "oh," sometimes with accompanying eyeroll, when I answer their inquiry as to what I read), that tells me to put on my big girl pants and read some literature.  It's typically not a very positive voice, so I have decided to continue to repeat my reader mantra: "I don't care how many bats I have tattooed on my person, I do not have to read Dracula", and I am a happy reader.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: the Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green is not what I expected.  I won't tell you exactly what I expected, because that may ruin it for you when you read it.  What's that you say, you weren't planning on reading it?  Well you really should.  It is an excellent book about young love, loss, and how you need to live and love now, regardless of your situation, because it is the love that is important, not how long it lasts.

Hazel has thyroid cancer, which has metastasized to her lungs, she knows she will not live to a ripe old age, but for right now a drug is preventing the tumors in her lungs from growing any larger.  So it has arrested, but not cured her condition.  She still needs to use an oxygen tank.  Certainly not a life anyone would want as a sixteen year old, until she meets Augustus Waters at her cancer support group.  Augustus is in remission from a cancer that resulted in an amputated leg.  Hazel tries to keep Augustus (fantastic name Augustus) at arms length, because she doesn't want to hurt him when she dies.  "I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to try to minimize that casualties, okay?"  Fantastic line, although all for naught, as they fall in love anyway.  These characters are well written, and it is a great young love story.

The book makes some fascinating observations about what it means to be a terminally ill child, and what it means to be the parent of a terminally ill child.  It is an important book for both parents and their teens to read.  It is interesting to see what happens to teenagers who have lost their sense of immortality.  They know they will not live forever, but are determined to live while they can.

In the end, The fault In Our Stars, is an epic love story that stretches on to infinity.  It just happens that, "some infinities are longer than others."