Friday, 28 February 2014

Books I will never read

A blog post from Guardian has caused some discussion on Facebook, and I have challenged my young colleague to list – and justify – a hundred books we will never read.

To be fair, I must say that I never read chick lit, true crime and all kinds of stuff too numerous to mention. So this will be things I ought to read, for various reasons, but won't.

The easiest thing is sequels to books I disliked, such as

Lightning Thief
Maze runner
Ender's game

To make sure I am not a snob, I will add:

The portrait of a lady, volume 2

Then sequels to books I like and therefore don't want to read a sequel, particularly if written by someone else

Oz sequels. I have read a couple, and they were all rubbish

Books by writers whose books I have read and didn't like. This, however, can be tricky. I didn't like the first two books by John Green, and then Julia made me read The Fault in Our Stars, and it is one of the best books ever. It made me read yet another book by John Green, and I put it aside after five pages. But, nothing by

George Sand
Flaubert (hmm, I seem to have a bias against French literature)
Paulo Coelho
P. G. Woodhouse
Shel Silverstein
Dan Brown

Books that we were supposed to read in school

Theodor Dreiser (ironically, they are now banned in Russia as unsuitable for young readers)
Upton Sinclair

Books I don't want to read for no obvious reasons

Game of Thrones
Paradise Lost
The Bell Jar
Thus Spake Zarathustra
Atlas Shrugged
The Naked and the Dead
The Awakening
The Illiad
Quo Vadis
Color Purple
Beloved (started severla times and could not finish)
Stephen King
E.M. Foster (but I love his criticism)
Marquis de Sade

Not sure whether I am up to a hundred yet, but could easily go on.

My list of books I want to read is much shorter.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Reference frames

For no reason at all I remembered two children's books today, or rather, I remembered a book and then another book. The Giant Jam Sandwich is a lovely picturebook written in verse about a little town invaded by wasps. The local baker comes up with a solution: make a giant jam sandwich and lure the wasps inside. The pictures show the whole process of baking and jam-making, tons of flour, thousands of eggs, buckets of strawberries, barrels of sugar. The plan is successful, the wasps are killed, and the crows take care of the remnants.

Already when I first read the book, many many years ago, I was in two minds. I am sure it is an ingenious and ecological method of insecticide, and it's a funny, nonsensical story, but what about all this food wasted – they only use two slices of the loaf – that could have fed the poor and hungry? Yes, yes, I know it's just a funny story, but what do young readers get of it, will their respect for food be shattered a tiny bit, or maybe they never had it to begin with?

A verse by the great Italian children's writer and educator Gianni Rodari also features a giant loaf. The speaker says that if he were a wizard baker, he would bake a loaf so big that all people in the world would have a share, and the birds would get the crumbs. And after that, the day will for even be remembered as “The Day When Nobody Was Hungry”.

I could now go on with an extensive moral, but I think I have made my point.