Erinn Batykefer, MLIS

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Adults Should Read Adult Books – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

Joel Stein, a columnist for Time Magazine, recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times proclaiming that Adults Should Read Adult Books – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

A few quotes:

“Books are one of our few chances to learn. There’s a reason my teachers didn’t assign me to go home and play three hours of Donkey Kong.”

“The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads.”

Clearly, this is written specifically to insult and incite argument, but it’s so brazenly elitist and myopic that doesn’t even serve as an entree into meaningful debate.

This article misses the point and gets things wrong in many ways (despite the modest word count), but here are the bones I’d like to pick:

  • Mr. Stein doesn’t seem to understand the fact that YA vs. Adult designations are often arbitrary in the publishing / book selling world. A book is marketed for the purpose of making money, not because it’s “for” any particular group (besides people who like a good story).
  • Similarly, Stein misses the point of most age-range designations for literature and media, which is to establish appropriate content.  Movies that are made for adults are often rated PG-13, not because they are for teenagers, but because there simply isn’t anything objectionable in them in terms of sex, violence, or language to earn the R rating.
  • But What I find most interesting is his asinine quote about media.  Video games, he claims, can teach us nothing, but books can.  Sorry, Mr. Stein, but you’ve bulldogged onto a dead cause– education is expanding to include video games and gaming principles in all kinds of instructional models, and the success of these models is remarkable, not least because it means more students are able to learn, and to learn in more applicable and meaningful ways.

For more on gaming in education, check out this article: The Federal Fun Czar: UW’s Constance Steinkuehler Shapes the Whitehouse’s Video Game Policy

What do you think?

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2 comments on “Adults Should Read Adult Books – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

  1. Pingback: YA Lit for Adults « Erinn Batykefer, MLIS

  2. travit
    May 3, 2012

    I’m a fan of Joel Stein, but the assertation that something labeled YA is only for YA is just silly. A good book is a good book whether it was written with adult readers in mind or the youngest beginning reader. I can often be seen reading picture books and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

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This entry was posted on May 3, 2012 by in Blog and tagged , , .

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