Links: We Alll Read Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenI learned on Kathy Temean’s blog yesterday that out of the top 17 bestselling, top earning authors, 6 of them are YA or children’s authors. Obviously J.K. Rowling’s there, I’m sure she’s been there for ages, but there’s also Veronica Roth, Jeff Kinney, and, of course, John Green — who knew you could make so much money off bringing legions of teenagers (and adults, ahem) to tears? — among others. As Kathy points out, it’s inspiring to see people writing in my age group genre making that list. But, it’s also a little overwhelming. Oh, all I have to do is sell millions of copies and nab a movie deal? On it.

I also found on The Mary Sue that millennials read books. Also, they use the library! Yes, I could have told you that, with the weekly teenagers I see come up to me at the library desk with a book stack so high they could topple over. Still, I like hearing proof of these things. I don’t consider myself a millennial, exactly (am I? Am I just outside of it? I really don’t know what the cutoff is), but I find millennial bashing massively annoying, so I like proof to the contrary.

What do you think of the articles? Did you hear any interesting book news this week?

My Books in 2013

Looking back on my Good Reads list, this year was pretty big for new authors that I love

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenFirst and foremost is John Green, all of whose books I’ve now read, most notably of which is The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t fall in love with all of this books, but TFiOS is now and forever more one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever come across. I can’t stop recommending it to (or buying it for) people, and I only wish I had figured out how great it was when it first came out so I could have jumped on the bandwagon sooner. As a direct result of that, too, I’ve become a fan of his brother Hank and their YouTube pages, which help me while away all sorts of time I should be spending writing.

Speaking of books I missed the first ship on: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I mean, Jesus. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read, but man I think this is THE best book I’ve ever come across.

Then there’s Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor and Park simultaneously broke and swelled my heart about as much as TFiOS, and Fangirl gave that wonderful, well, fangirl flutter in my gut that I don’t feel as often as I once did. I still haven’t read her adult book, but it’s certainly on my list.
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
Also of note: this year, Sara Farizan, another Lesley graduate, published her first book, If You Could Be Mine, a wonderful love story. It makes me so proud to have been in the same program as her.

Not in the YA grouping: David Sedaris. How have I not read this man before? His nonfiction essays reveal a life that in most ways is very different from mine, but he still manages to write things that click and mesh with the way I see the world, that echo thoughts I’ve never said out loud because who else would possibly think that way? I’ve read almost everything he’s written, which is really depressing in its own way, since I could read his books forever. But luckily Sedaris is one of those magical readers that stand up to rereadings (or re-listenings, since I switch between his audio books and print books) so I can just go back to him again and again and again.

Boxers and Saints2013 was also a year where I started getting into different forms of reading. audiobooks became my go-to way to pass the time doing chores or driving, though I do find myself being very picky with what I listen to: it has to be something I can spend only about 80% of my brain on, and I can’t make myself listen to anything that equals more than 10 or so CDs. I’ve also discovered a new love of short stories, with Aimee Bender and George Saunders, and also J.D. Salinger and another new favorite book, Franny and Zooey.

Always there are new comics. This year I found a new favorite webcomic, Boumeries, which I’ve talked about before. I’ve also loved Gene Luen Yang’s new duet (duology? twosome?), Boxers & Saints about the Boxer Rebellion in China. Other good ones were Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, and Marbles, a memoir on bipolar disorder, by Ellen Forney.

Really, I could go on and on about the books I loved this year. There are plenty I didn’t name. But those are some of the things that stuck out for me. How about you?

Quick Look: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenI’m a little late jumping on the John Green love bandwagon, and I don’t want to dwell on it, but let’s just say I read Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars and started watching his video blog and now I adore him.

One thing I noticed with The Fault in Our Stars is how this book is both very sad (the main character, Hazel, is 16-years-old with terminal cancer who falls in love with a boy who’s had his leg amputated from his own cancer) and very, very funny. Often, these two things occur simultaneously, like when Hazel finds out she’ll be able to go on a trip to Amsterdam, and she says to her lungs (which don’t function properly) “Keep your shit together.” Green does this in bigger ways, too, resulting in scenes that must have been so difficult to craft but wind up revealing something so very true about people.

There is one scene in particular that I have been quoting to people since I read it, because it struck me as very empathetic, harsh, sad, and also kind of funny. Hazel is talking with her friend Isaac, who has just had his second eye removed because of his own cancer. Prior to the surgery, his girlfriend broke up with him, “so she wouldn’t have to dump a blind guy.” Now, he’s trying to figure out why she won’t get together with Augustus, who she obviously really likes.

“Do you like him?” Isaac asked.

“Of course I like him. He’s great.”

“But you don’t want to hook up with him?”

I shrugged. “It’s complicated.”

“I know what you’re trying to do. You don’t want to give him something he can’t handle. You don’t want him to Monica you.”

“Kinda,” I said. But it wasn’t that. The truth was, I didn’t want to Isaac him. “To be fair to Monica,” I said, “what you did to her wasn’t very nice, either.”

“What’d I do to her?” he asked, defensive.

“You know, going blind and everything.”

“But that’s not my fault,” Isaac said.

“I’m not saying it was your fault. I’m saying it wasn’t nice.

At first glance, this seems pretty harsh, as it looks like Hazel’s blaming Isaac for getting dumped. But really, she’s just pointing out the truth — for a 16-year-old girl, having your boyfriend go suddenly blind is an emotional shock, the need to be there for him is overwhelming, and while it’s obviously harder for Isaac, he can’t get out of the situation, while she can. This is where the subtle humor comes in, through Hazel’s deadpan assertion that, even though Isaac can’t help it, his cancer (which, as other parts of the book establish, is a part of the sick person, is the sick person) is being pretty mean to his girlfriend. You may cringe, but you also have to chuckle. And then you understand the truth. Most people can’t handle a situation like this, it’s overwhelming, and causes them to be bad people and dump their sick boyfriends, so no, it’s not a nice thing to do to them. It’s really sad, kind of funny, and ultimately empathetically honest about what people are really like.