Poll: Should grown-ups read books meant for kids?

We’ve got Joel Stein joining us tomorrow. Kerri tweeted a link to a column he wrote explaining why he wouldn’t read The Hunger Games or any other young adult novels:

I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.

Kerri was inundated with comments, as was the New York Times.

What do you think?

Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Bob Lucas

    One of the best reading list I got was from a 13 year old friend of my daughter. Oh by the way she is a sophomore at Harvard!

  • Jen

    Not only are good books, good books… but what about the value of reading a book and being able to discuss/share with your children?

  • Eric B

    I thought Joel Stein’s column was hilarious, but I only agree with his sentiment as it relates specifically to “The Hunger Games.” I actually was reading the book on a plane to New York last week, so Mr. Stein would have been pretty embarrassed sitting next to me. That is, until I gave up two chapters in and handed it to the kid two seats over; it was just too simply written to keep me reading and seemed like a copy of several other books and stories I know. Nonetheless, reading is about a lot of things, not just learning. It’s also about entertainment. People should read whatever they want to read. I’m 29 and I still read Calvin & Hobbes on a regular basis, but maybe that was intended for adults. Finally, I resent the comment, “Books are one of our few chances to learn.” Personally, I learn from everything, all the time. If our columnist is rarely learning outside of books, he must know little-to-nothing about the real world and its inhabitants.

  • Kevin

    This is kind of like saying we should all be reading serious journalism like the Economist or the New York Times instead of Time Magazine. Oh wait, Joel Stein is a Time contributor…

  • Laurie

    I love kids and YA literature, because on average, there is more often a point to the story, characters learn something, and the reader comes away enriched. I find much fiction written for adults depressing and largely pointless.

  • Kate

    Laurie has a good point about adult literature being depressing, though there is plenty that is not (I love Jane Austen). I read plenty of adult books, but I love the optimism in books for youth. Even when characters face a lot of darkness (i.e., the Harry Potter series), good triumphs in the end. Give me Jane Eyre or Breadcrumbs any day. You can keep Madame Bovary.

  • Antero Alli

    Human have the hubris of ever calling themselves “adults”, even dying in old age we are but babes. I suggest reading at least 3 books concurrently, preferably different types and genres. Pick any and enjoy the bliss of intelligence increase:

    ► Books about autism

    ► Black comedy books‎

    ► Books about Alzheimer’s disease‎

    ► Children’s books‎

    ► City guides‎

    ► Combat treatises‎

    ► Comedy books‎

    ► Cultural studies books

    ► Disney books‎

    ► Essay collections‎

    ► Existentialist books‎

    ► Collections of fairy tales‎

    ► Fiction books‎

    ► Books written in fictional dialects‎

    ► Fine illustrated books‎

    ► Gamebooks‎

    ► Handbooks and manuals‎

    ► Hymnals‎

    ► Lists of books by genre‎

    ► Lists of books by type‎

    ► Non-fiction books‎

    ► Oral history books‎

    ► Poetry collections‎

    ► Political books‎

    ► Postmodern books‎

    ► Psychedelic literature‎

    ► Puzzle books‎

    ► Reference works‎

    ► Science fiction books‎

    ► Self-help books‎

    ► Short story collections

    ► Song books‎

    ► Textbooks

    ► Transhumanist books‎

    ► Travel guide books

    ► Written fiction presented as fact‎

    ► Young adult literature‎

    ► Comics

    ► Alphabet books‎

    ► Anthologies‎

    ► Artists’ books‎

    ► Cancelled books

    ► Cigarette card albums‎

    ► Cookbooks‎

    ► Diaries‎

    ► Dictionaries by type‎

    ► Books available as e-books‎

    ► Fictional books‎

    ► Grimoires‎

    ► Illuminated manuscripts

    ► Incunabula‎

    ► Literary annuals‎

    ► Lost books‎

    ► Monographs

    ► Notebooks‎

    ► Books of photographs‎

    ► Prayer books‎

    ► Series of books‎

    ► Short story collections‎

    ► Trilogies‎

    ► Unfinished books‎

    ► Unpublished books‎

    ► Webcomics

  • Jeanelle

    Joel Stein gives me an confined felling like Andrew Breitbart did, I hope he keeps his mind and arteries flexible and resilient.

  • Annie

    I have to wonder how sincere Stein is with his criticism and how much is tongue-in-cheek provocation. If he is serious, how sad for him that he’s ignoring an entire category of possiblities. Yes, as the poll so succinctly puts it, good books are good books. The Harry Potter series is a complex and compelling work of literature that far surpasses (on literary merit and, in my opinion, entertainment value) most popular adult fiction I can think of, be it Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele, John Sandford, Jodi Picoult or even (yes!) Jonathan Franzen.

  • Carol

    Why is MPR allowing a guest WHO HASN’T EVEN READ THESE BOOKS offer an opinion on the appropriateness of these books for adults????? I’m a retired judge–and if this man tried to offer an opinion On the appropriateness in court a lawyer would leap up with the objection “lack of foundation”. And I’d sustain that objection immediately!

  • Annie

    Good point, Carol! And please, let’s not lump all popular YA fiction together…Twilight may have been ridiculously popular but is not in the same literary league as the HP and HG books.

  • Joelsprudish

    How soon will this guy get it? I think he needs to take a trip, I suggest “The Psychedelic Experience” by Alpert, Leary and Metzner.

  • Nancy

    This is like saying adults should not listen to rock and roll.

  • Tammy Walhof

    I’ll bet that Mr. Stein doesn’t watch movies like Chicken Run either. Yet there is some great humor in that movie and others that isn’t meant for kids. And as an anti-hunger policy-oriented organizer, I use it as a fun activity at retreats or conferences in the evening as people are winding down.

  • Barbara S.

    I have read read “YA” books in no small part to be reading the same thing as my children, which has lead to some really great discussions.

  • Colleen Hess

    I think that whatever gets people to read, let them read it and stop being so snobbish about it. People will be drawn to things that are mass marketed because that’s what is in front of them. When you read the” fast food books”, you may then appreciate a good steak now and then.

  • MinniMomEnglishMjr

    Loved Stein on the air and I am so glad he got some airtime to clarify his position. My beef with kiddy lit these days is not so much with its complexity, or lack thereof, but that we do not give young readers the critical thinking skills to critique what is being submitted to them as the next greatest thing in lit. As such, we are harvesting a crop of adult readers who only seek out books that also have movies and Happy Meal toys named after them. A little discernment and demand for depth would take us a lot farther, IMHO.

  • Thorne

    I’m normally a Joel Stein fan, so I’m going lean towards this largely being tongue in cheek.

    I think a good book is a good book regardless of genre and age labeling. I would also argue that one of the few places publishers are currently taking “risks” is in the YA category. Even saying YA category is a bit ridiculous because what does that really mean? Does it reflect the age of the protagonists? If so, Great Expectations is now decidedly YA. Does it mean it is appropriate for young adults by not being overtly offensive in several categories? Having said that … is a book like The Hunger Games really YA?

    Call me simple if you will, but anything that gets people to read, is going to be okay with me.

  • Margaret

    There are many things I could say about this, but really as long as people are reading at all, who cares what they choose to read?

  • Carol Ulrich

    Joel Stein has gone down in my estimation. He’s no fun at all. What ever happened to the love of a good yarn, started with oral history before anybody ever thought of a printed or written book? I am 77 and I have read continually all my life, and love books which teach me something, educate me, and also books that delight me with a good story. And no matter what the subject, what audience it was intended for, there is something about life that I learn from every book.

  • Jan

    “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often more) worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C. S. Lewis

  • jan

    “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often more) worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C. S. Lewis

  • Kristin

    I think people should read whatever they like to reading. Anything that gets people to read is GREAT! Also- I think that it is very important for parents to read what their children are reading so that they can discuss any upsetting parts of the book, or anything that might be just a tad too grown up. Better that we read what our children are reading than not know!

  • Jennifer

    Ummmm…. Joel Stein is a comedian. Everyone is taking this way too seriously.