The Reading Hierarchy

Having accepted our places at university, Bee and I were discussing the curriculum of university English Literature courses. Shakespeare is a staple of the syllabus, appearing in every course without fail, turning up like a bad penny. One of the Bronte sisters is also there, ready to throw some 18th-19th Century context your way.

But you’ll struggle to find books like ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ appearing at university level. Now it’s becoming more common for ‘Lord of the Rings’ to make it to the set list, with ‘Harry Potter’ almost getting there, skirting on the edge of the fantasy genre, struggling to gain prestige because he’s labelled as a ‘children’s book’.

Why is it that classics like ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Great Expectations’ are always given precedence over books like ‘The Raven Boys’ and ‘Under the Never Sky’?

When I told my English teacher that I primarily read ‘Young Adult’ fiction, she said I needed to ‘grow out’ of that stage before university, and start reading things like ‘The Shock of the Fall’ or ‘We’re Completely Beside Ourselves’ if I was interested in contemporary fiction, instead of ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’. I should be moving on to ‘adult books’.

But if I told her I’d recently read ‘You’re the One that I Want’ by Giovanna Fletcher, that would probably be looked down upon too, because of its placement within the ‘Women’s Fiction’ genre, or ‘Chick Lit’.

It seems unfair that academics think more of you if you’re read the collected works of Charles Dickens over that of Rick Riordan, and there seems to be this invisible hierarchy of reading, with classics at the top of the pyramid and YA at the bottom.

YA is the one of the largest growing genres of literature. Publishers can’t publish YA books fast enough. There seems to have been a boom of teenagers that want to read something that’s more suited to their age group, like me! When I was nine, I used to worry what I would read when I grew out of Jacqueline Wilson books. Now there’s a plethora of choice and I have trouble deciding what to read next!

I think that, and be warned of the oncoming opinion, that we should all just be happy that people are reading. Just because the book was published a month ago by someone straight out of college doesn’t make it any less worth reading than if it was publish over one hundred years ago by someone in their late forties.

Let books be books, instead of instruments with which the reader’s are judged.