Nearly every library runs summer reading programs and creates summer reading lists. Some libraries do this to maintain business when school isn’t in session. Others
compile lists to combat the loss of knowledge kids experience over the summer. Still others just want people to read! Whatever the reason, patrons expect a “good” list of literature. Of course, this begs the question: what makes a book list “good”? Is it a quality inherent in the pieces chosen? Is it the wide variety suggested? Is a good list one that simply encourages reading? Teaches life lessons? Is it thought-provoking? Are the books classics? New books? I could go on, but the bottom line is that people not only have expectations but those ideals are all different. Personally, my idea of a reading list is one that has a lot of different books that are fun, challenging, and thought-provoking. Some might agree, but others want books that help pass the time or that reflect either their daily lives or what they want out of life. I’d venture to say that most like a mix between the two I outlined. So how should a library go about making this perfect summer reading list? Well, this has been a subject of hot debate surrounding the New York Public Library summer reading challenge.
An opinion piece written for the New York Post attacks the NYPL list, calling it silly and pathetic. The article claims that it is full of “fluff” books that don’t delve into real issues. Every piece is cookie-cutter and immature. Angrily, the article points out that the list lacks any classic stories that move people and teach them about good literature. Everything is recent, and they show that the NYPL is desperately trying to feed kids any books, not bothering to go beyond limits of mean girls and high school drama. Somewhat controversially, the article also argues that the list is ridiculously politically correct, trying too hard to please people of every ethnicity.
On the other side of the argument, an article on Book Riot defends the NYPL, saying that the books are relatable to teen audiences. It also states that the idea of timeless literature is debatable; a book written recently could prove to be classic in its own right, and it’s a lot more relatable than old books. The Book Riot article also argues that the depth of literature is not important because the libraries who made the list simply want to encourage any reading that will stop kids from forgetting school material over the summer. Additionally, the article points out that YA literature tends to lack diversity, so the NYPL’s suggestions are warranted and helpful. Both articles have strong stands and support their claims, so who’s right?
As with every debate, there are two sides, and rarely is one entirely correct. The Post article makes a good point: the NYPL list lacks challenging books that sophisticatedly present mature themes. In my opinion, it is a pretty lame list. However, they are books that teens want to read. I’ve never met someone whose interest isn’t piqued by a bit of drama. Furthermore, why attack ethnic diversity in literature? Just because it’s more PC to represent cultural books doesn’t mean it’s bad.
However, these faults in the NY Post article don’t make the Book Riot post right either. It does defend the book choices fairly, stating that they’re books that encourage any and all reading for everyone, but most of this article attacks the NY Post article rather than defending the book list. It picks apart every NY Post point rather than forming a coherent argument for the NYPL.
Therefore, neither editorial clarifies the issue fairly, so it’s up to teen readers to decide whether or not the NYPL summer reading list is “good”.