07 August 2009

Shelf Discovery

I've developed a love for books written by fellow book-addicted, nostalgic people describing favorite books, or books that saved them, or just about reading books in general. Last year I read Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume and loved it because it brought back all the reasons why I loved JB when I was of the eight and up set (and recc'ed the book at BNBC).

Enter Lizzie Skurnick and Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. Skurnick writes the Fine Lines column for Jezebel.com (most recently one about A Summer to Die) and Shelf Discovery follows in the column's footsteps. Skurnick and a few contributors (Meg Cabot, for one) write on approximately 100 beloved books we all read as tweens - when I say we, I probably mean women over the age of 25 although I'm pretty sure some guys read a few of these, too - and why we all read those beloved books to tatters. The books covered range from Little Women and Farmer Boy to Deenie, The Girl with the Silver Eyes, and I am the Cheese. The essays range from approximately two pages (a few of the "extra credit" ones) to nine or ten (the "book report" ones) making this a really good book to read while waiting in line.

Skurnick often alludes to having read many of these as a pre-tween and I was right there with her. I wasn't quite sure how Deenie got a "special spot" either as a nine-year-old but I was a shade jealous that she got one and I did not. I had a number of "omg, I loved that part, too" or "that book creeped me out, too" moments while reading Shelf Discovery making the act of reading the essays more like a shared experience rather than a solitary one. I hadn't read about 1/4 of the books described (my Lois Duncan-experience is rather sketchy since I never quite "got" paranormal stuff - "light as a feather, stiff as a board" didn't work on me) but there are a number that I would like to read as well as re-reading some of my favorites.

Those looking for an egalitarian, objective look at classic YA literature might not like Shelf Discovery quite as much because Skurnick injects so much of her own experience into the essays. This isn't a comparative exercise in teen literature but a love-letter to reading and I enjoyed Shelf Discovery all the more for it. In fact, I got a few other bookseller friends of approximately my age to read Shelf Discovery and guess what? They like it, too!

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