Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Defense of Book Nerds

I  listened to a Henry Rollins monologue on dating the other day, and it troubled me.  

"So what are you reading?" he asked expectantly. 
"Well I'm in the middle of this Harry Potter-" 
"Don't be an adult woman reading a fucking children's book in my car, get out!"

This is not going to be a defense of Harry Potter.  Statistically speaking, most people who are reading this blog probably are already Harry Potter fans, so I don't need to go down that road.

Children and young adult authors are some of the best writers around.  It is much, much harder to be a good storyteller than a good writer, and the really great ones, the ones who have both the talent of the storyteller and the skill of a great writer, will shape generations of readers and expose them, young and old, to a landscape of literacy that will forever be a part of their soul.  Think not just of J.K. Rowling, who certainly falls into this category, but of Lois Lowery, John Bellairs, C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume.  Think of Tuck Everlasting, Bridge to Terabithia, The Golden Compass, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Homecoming, Hatchet and The Pigman.  Think of The Outsiders

Stay gold.

These are books that if you haven't read, you should.  And if you have read them, go back and read them again.  More likely than not, you'll discover something that you missed when you were ten, or thirteen, or fifteen.

And while you're doing that, rail against book snobbery.  Instead, be a book nerd.  Love your literacy.  Love the easily accessible, love the stuff that's a little out of your reach, love the books that were translated from Latin to French to English and back again.  And then go back, and read the fifth Harry Potter.  I still cry every time. 

And, because we all love a list, you qualify as a book nerd if:

Someone asks your favorite Morrison, and instead of Van or Jim, you say Toni.

You could stare at a bookshelf for hours, entranced by the pretty books.

You've had long conversations with people about the best way to organize a book shelf.  (For me, I do alphabetical by author's last name, and then chronological by publication date.  So it'd be The Bluest Eye, then Sula.  Obviously.  And that's just for fiction.  Nonfiction is a whole other story.)

You have multiple copies of the same book, because you just can't bear to throw one away, and really each has its own merits.

You heard the Post Office has a new flat rate for shipping books and you giggled?  Book nerd.

You've ever passed the time by wondering what books you would most want to give to different people you know.

Oh, and if those picks were based on what you thought they'd actually like instead of what you think they should like?  Definitely a book nerd.  (Book snobs to the left!)

Some people get t-shirts from different vacation spots.  Shot glasses, perhaps.  Furniture, sea shells.  Not you.  You get books written by authors from that new city. 

You have at least three different library cards in your wallet right now.  

And finally:

You get equally excited by Shakespeare, Murakami, Woolf, Bronte....and JK Rowling.

Quidditch, anyone?


  1. It's amazing how asian we look in that picture of us all holding our new Harry Potter books!

    Sidenote- Rob Lowe looks SMOKING HOT in that picture. Oh Sodapop Curtis I'll love you forever!

  2. AMEN!!!! I read both "The Education of Little Tree" and "Beneath the Wheel" this past year - "kids" books, sure, but I got a whole hell of a lot more of them as an adult (and enjoyed them a lot more than some of the higher-brow stuff I attempted). In sum, I couldn't agree more :)

  3. I put my Percy Jackson series next to Sam's collection of Mamet plays just to make him angry. My role in this life is to counter my boyfriend's intense book snobbery.