Entertainment Weekly’s books editor, Tina Jordan, has been writing about the conundrum she faced when she discovered that her bright, bookish daughter was reading a trashy Gossip Girl novel. Discounting taking the book away as a form of censorship, Jordan asked her readers: “What do you do when you hate what your daughter is reading?”
The responses from her colleagues and readers were instructive, less for any advice on how to redirect her daughter back into reading literature than for reminding Jordan why teens read trash. And to the surprise of no one who has ever been a teen…
Everyone pretty much agreed: This kind of surreptitious reading is a traditional rite of passage. But what surprised me was how many of my colleagues — separated not just by geography but by generation — turned to the same books for their, uh, information: The Godfather (page 27 was specifically mentioned by two people), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Jaws, The Diary of Anais Nin, The Other Side of Midnight, and anything by Judy Blume or John Jakes (though, as senior editor Thom Geier said, ”But Jakes tended to write his sex scenes in language so obscure that you’d have to go rushing to the dictionary to figure out what in the world he was trying to say. And even then, you didn’t really learn very much”).
The list is long and varied, and it makes the Peel Region’s Catholic School Board’s attempt to take David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars out of school libraries in Ontario look utterly futile.