I have my dream job. Being a librarian is an honor; it is my job to take care of books and help people find ones that they will enjoy. The books are precious to me. I go around straightening leaning stacks so that the spines won’t twist out of shape. I adjust the shelf height so that the tall books don’t get forced in and bent. I replace the copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that always seems to wander into the Adult Audio Section, I wipe questionable brown goo off of board books, and I repair tattered copies of Maze Runner. It is my responsibility to take care of the books, whether I like their contents or not.
It can be frustrating to be a librarian who loves books. I can imagine museum curators feel the same way. We know where the real treasures lie, the masterpieces or priceless artifacts that go overlooked as visitors linger over the flashy and the new. Books on the “Staff Picks” shelf often go untouched as patrons wait on long lists for the formulaic new releases.
I can hear myself turning into the stereotypical Crabby Librarian. I’ve been called a “literary snob,” but I think a better way of putting it is that I’ve been spoiled. Unlike a snob, I don’t care what the critics think are classics. I hated every minute of Adam Bede, and I confess that I was glad when Young Werther finally killed himself, and wished he had done it a few chapters earlier. I have been spoiled on life-altering books. The kind of books whose stories affect you so deeply that they become a part of who you are as a person, just as if they were your own experiences. Sometimes these books become “classics,” sometimes not. I’ve heard so many critics complain about J.K. Rowling’s writing, and yet her books have become part of my generation’s cultural identity.
All this is to say what Dr. Phil would never approve of–please spoil your children. Spoil them with good books. Once they have tasted Lewis, L’Engle, Paterson, and DiCamillo, they’ll never be satisfied with cheap genre fiction. And while you’re spoiling them, spoil yourself! If the author’s name is bigger on the book’s cover than the title, that’s a warning sign. My recommendation for finding good books is to ask a librarian, or to find a volume that looks well-loved and read the first few sentences. That’s usually all it takes.