Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Books to read?

2011 was declared the year of books by the BBC and there have been many wonderful book programmes on the various channels - some adaptations, some histories and some documentaries. What there isn't however is a television book review show.

Sky Arts however has such a programme. Each week three authors are interviewed about their newest books, we get sneak peeks into the places that authors write and also someone makes a book club suggestion in their favourite bookshop. My 'to read' pile has grown enormously since I discovered the show. The programmes are also often broadcast from the major literary festivals which is lovely if you can't get to them.

This season there is a new feature at the end - each of the three main guests has to recommend the book that they think everyone should read before they are 21. And this is where my problems start.

The instant you tell someone they *have* to read something they are likely to be perverse and instantly refuse to do so.

Also the books that have been chosen?
Just last week the three books were True Grit by Charles Portis, Lord of the Flies by Golding and The King James Bible. Out of those three I can see an average under 21 starting True Grit because of the film, dismissing Lord of the Flies as a set text and laughing at the idea of reading the Bible.

The week before the choices were Atlas Shrugged by Rand, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn and My Antonia by Cather. The full list can be found here.

There are a lot of classic books on there, but I think that they are better discovered later in life, when you can read them for fun and through choice rather than seeing them as a chore or a flashback to literature study.

If you want to create readers and people who enjoy books then I feel you should either pick books that really will appeal to the under 21s or change the title of the segment to "Books you shouldn't read" - the best way to get someone interested in something is to ban it!

The only person, so far, in this series that seems to understand this is Malorie Blackman who recommended a (challenging) graphic novel.

Now I realise that I do have a problem with reading lists and being told to read things but I really do think that this segment of an otherwise good programme is out of touch and if well meaning friends and relatives print the list off as a suggestion to a young person you'll create a person who thinks books are dull faster than anything.

This is also a long, roundabout way to confess that I have failed to read the 6 books for the Writers' Centre Norwich Summer Read. I will try again but it won't be in time to read along with the project.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree with you, Sarah. Everytime I watch it I think "there's no way I would have read that before I was 21." And often the panelists choose books that they wish they had discovered earlier in life, without stopping to consider whether they would have bothered opening the cover at another stage in their life.

    I love lists of books, but this one does rather strike me as poorly conceived.