105 Ways to Give a Book

Grow Up

I remember when I could be sliced to the core by the words, "Grow up." Delivered with an offhand, disdainful superiority that only a teenager can perfectly master, it was a phrase from my past. But not anymore.

After reading the NYT opinion piece on how adults should read adult books, the phrase jumped into my mind as clearly as if the author Joel Stein was sneering it over his shoulder in the high school cafeteria. Grow up. And I heard it like the wake-up call it was. Yes, it is time to grow up.

It's time to give up children's books. And I'm doing it.

Seriously, I'm not even sure what I've been doing all this time with apparently three thousand years of adult literature just waiting for me. Kidlit and YA can't give me the adult things that an adult needs in reading. For instance, sometimes there aren't enough big words. You know, like pretentious. And while there might be some sex in teen books, it's always played down and rarely described with "throbbing" or the naughty words for our... parts. Okay, so maybe that's not the literary argument, but it is adult.

How is it I've been straying from the subtle shades of literature that only an adult book can employ? I remember this book where the empty chairs in the room so clearly stood for the existential loneliness that lies at the core of each one of us, and yet that isn't revealed in the brightness of day but only in darkness. Though come to think of it, that may be from Goodnight, Moon.

Really the point is in the type of book that can lead us to discover our existential loneliness. Or even that can make us want to use the word existential in a write-up. Oh, and the ennui! How I have missed the ennui. Certainly we can all admit that a teen's struggle to define himself along the expectations of society, parents, and peers all while trying to tune in to his own ever-shifting internal compass is trivial when compared to that sad, bored woman who eats, prays and loves.

So I'm making a pledge with a few others, that as an adult I'll only be reading adult books starting today, April Fools Day.


Julie Hedlund said...

Wow! Now that you mention it, I should take that pledge too. It's about time I grew up.

Jen Robinson said...

I have noticed a distinct lack of ennui in my life of late. Perhaps adding some books with more pretentious words will do the trick. Thank you for being such an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh! I feel better now. Your twitter post sent a shock wavel through me...no!!!!!!! How can she give up reading kid lit?

Melissa said...

Now that you've grown up, you can read the very adult, and very deep Fifty Shades of Gray. Because that's what *adults* read.

Happy April Fools Day. :-D

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Well said! I expect you'll be quoted greatly, and rightly so!

A.S. King said...


Thank you for writing this. You know, I think I will also stop writing young adult books. I'm sick of writing all this fluff and I want to get serious again. Life isn't worth it unless it's serious and only then can I take myself seriously, and that's the most important thing in life.

Thank you. Seriously.

Kelly Jensen said...

I'm so glad we chose to make this very adult decision on the same day. Now we can hang out with our ennui and not feel like we have to judge one another about it.

Christy Rush-Levine said...

I love your smartass voice. Spoken like a true MotherReader!

Gail Gauthier said...

You know, I've been reading Joel Stein off and on for years. Back ten years ago or so, I really liked his Time columns. He was very edgy and clever. His stuff was unusual. I've started reading Time again recently, and he's back there with another column. Now I'm finding him kind of...old. "Adults Should Read Adult Books" is old and predictable. I would expect it from Harold Bloom. I read similar things years ago relating to adults reading Harry Potter on the train.

This frightens me. My ambition has always been to be edgy, clever, and unusual. Now I'm afraid that if I make it, it won't last. And since I'm older than Stein, my edgy, clever, and unusual curve should be much shorter. I'm afraid I'll go directly to Harold Bloom.

Perhaps it's just not worth the effort.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I just spent the last few minutes, or hours, reading Mr. Stein's blog and the response to it. Fortunately it's overwhelmingly negative, and I would respond to his blog, but I really don't see the need to pump up his overinflated sense of how many people follow him, or God forbid, give the impression to the New York Times that Stein is a author who is worthy of attention. I swear he wrote this dribble just to get some attention, because it doesn't seem like he wrote that piece with any amount of seriousness, right? Perhaps an early April Fools?

I think it's cool that there are some people out there who enjoy reading the classics, and studying books for deeper meaning but... that ain't me. I read to entertain my brain, so bring on the YA and the low brow adult novels I so enjoy! I get plenty of big words in most blog's word verification (those are real words, right?).

I will admit, I was a bit worried for a moment that you were giving up reading for fun, happy April's Fool!

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

Books for kids and teens are written to a higher standard than books for adults. For one thing, there has to be a plot. And character growth.
Give me kids' books.
And kids' books bloggers.

Anonymous said...


I caught on at, "You know, like pretentious."

Jone said...

Well played!