In view of the spectacular success of my first two summer reading list blogs (we’re talking Facebook likes in the upper threes, people), I feel I would be remiss in not cramming one more in before the back to school sales end and the leaves start to change. You people seem to love when I tell you what to do!  This fills me with a sense of power I can’t help but attempt to abuse, so I figured I’d take my new powers for a test drive by telling you what not to do. Without further ado, here is my list of books not to read this summer!

Fifty Shades of Grey (the entire series)
E.L. James

If the fact that it’s poorly-spelled porn isn’t enough for you, consider these things: the innocent, virginal female/sexually dominant male thing has been done to death; the “author,” who originally wrote it under the pen-name Snowqueens Icedragon (which is actually pretty boss), has never been to the Pacific Northwest, despite setting the book here; and it contains the line “My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.” And it’s not a comedy. If you want to read something naughty, there are a lot of options available; such as Anais Nin’s The Delta of Venus and Pauline Reage’s The Story of O, many of which are far more literarily competent (and also happen make this book look like a nun’s guide to scrupulous chastity). Finally, it’s Twilight fan fiction and even the author of the Twilight series has refused to read it. Which brings us to our next book:

Twilight (the entire series)
Stephenie Meyer

Not to belabor a point, but this is yet another book series set in the Pacific Northwest and yet, much like Ms. Icedragon, Stephenie Meyer (yes, she spells her name with that insufferable “e”) had never even been here at the time of its writing. In addition to that, they’re romance novels. In addition to that, they’re poorly written romance novels. In addition to that, they’re poorly written romance novels about fairytale monsters and the teenage girls they love. Gross. Among the numerous legitimate, literary reasons you shouldn’t be reading Twilight this summer is the fact that the last book in the series was published in 2010, so you don’t even have the excuse that you’re curious as to why it’s such a popular phenomenon anymore. In the intervening four years, Twilight fandom has been absolutely steamrolled by the previous book on this list and by massive hit, The Hunger Games. Coincidentally:

The Hunger Games (the entire series)
Suzanne Collins

Let me tell you about a little test I like to perform on popular books: I take one off one of the numerous displays in whatever grocery store I happen to be in, open it to a random page, and read one paragraph. If I’m not laughing like a helium-addled hyena before line six, I will consider reading it. Needless to say, this book didn’t pass my test (I even had my boyfriend try the same test, which was totally for the sake of scientific rigor and not because I like to torment him). Despite the fact that this grindingly boring series is stuffed to the gills with worn out sci-fi tropes and is about as skillfully written as public bathroom graffiti, that’s not my major bone to pick with it.

My major issue with this book series is that it is awful, and yet ubiquitous in pop culture to the point of inducing physical nausea, and people always jump to the same defense of it: it’s getting kids to read. That is not ever, ever, ever a reason to support a book that is total garbage. If I caught my son reading this, I’d curse the day I allowed him to become literate. There is one thing that gets kids to read: parents. So do it. Don’t leave it up to whatever author is churning out the latest blockbuster soon-to-be-movie book. Opening up the world of literature to my 8-year-old son has been a hugely rewarding and magical experience for both of us. We recently started a new book together, which he requested with no prompting from me. That book is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (fantasy that isn’t garbage). Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for, so don’t encourage them to read things that will make them dumber. And don’t waste your time reading those books yourself.

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