Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A 2010 Book Utopia? [You're The Expert]

I happened upon an article in The Guardian (seriously, where else?  These people come up with the most thought-provoking content for me!) by Rick Gekoski that mourns the passing of the day when literate and educated people had all read the same set of literature.  He mentions a game called Humiliation, of which I am not familiar, but was apparently all the rage in 1974. (that's totally pre-me btw)  You played by owning to a book that you hadn't read, then for every person in the group that had read it, you got a point.  He concludes his article with the following sentiment: "I wish that the pleasure of reading, across the whole spectrum of literature, in all its variety, were part of a shared culture amongst young people today."

Now he's not saying that we don't all read.  He's saying that it's a shame that we don't all read the same things, so we can't all discuss how these things are relevant to us.  I'll admit that when I first started reading this article, I was a little skeptical.  Then he listed the following list of books that everyone who was literate in 1974 had read:
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1953)
JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1953)
William Golding, The Lord of the Flies (1954)
Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (1955)
Allen Ginsberg, Howl (1956)
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1956)
Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)
Norman O Brown, Life Against Death (1959)
RD Laing, The Divided Self (1960)
Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961)
Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
Pauline Reage, The Story of O (1965)
Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape (1967)
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1967)
Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968)
Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan (1968)
Arthur Janov, The Primal Scream (1970)
Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (1971)
Robert M Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycling Maintenance (1974)
The great part about that is that I haven't read a single one of those. I read the Cliff's Notes for Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye, so I could probably discuss them with you to some degree, but honestly? I read them to pass tests, and I honestly don't remember the content or themes.

It dawned on me that even within the YA community we face a similar conundrum to the one Gekoski describes.  Even within young adult, teen, and adults categories there are so many genres and sub-genres that there is no way we could have all read the same list of books.  It's a rare find these days to find someone who likes the same type of literature you like, let alone someone who reads the same set of books as you do.  In this I luck out, as I tend to be my friends' source for books, so I usually have someone to discuss with, but we still read different books and still love/hate books that the other doesn't.  The environment that Gekoski describes seems to me like a literary utopia, and one I'd love to have.  But.  I don't think there's any way I'd sacrifice the literary diversity that 2010 brings to achieve it.  How 'bout you?

If you had to put one book on everyone's must-read list, what would it be?  What book would you want everyone in the world to have read so that you could discuss it with them freely and openly?  It's a ginormous question, and one worthy of some thought, as it might provoke some lightbulb moments for you as it did me.  You're not obligated to share your pick, but we'd sure love it if you did.  ♥

1 comment:

Alexa said...

I think it would be great to have many people to talk about books with but I understand that not everyone reads the same things. I would have to say a lot of my favorite books are things that didn't come out this year.

If I'm allowed to list things from previous years I would have to say I loved Perfect Chemistry and for Adult I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series.