Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

An Open Letter to the Book I Should Be Reading

A.J. O'Connell

Staff Writer

A.J. O’Connell is the author of two published novellas: Beware the Hawk and The Eagle & The Arrow. All she’s ever wanted to do in life is read and write books, and so, is constantly writing at least one novel. She holds an MFA in creative fiction, but despite the best efforts of her teachers at Fairfield University's low-residency program, remains a huge dork for sci-fi, fantasy and comic books. She is a journalist and has taught journalism to college students. She blogs about feminism, the writing life, and whatever else comes into her head at Blog: A.J. O'Connell Twitter: @ann_oconnell

Dear Book,

I see you, with your tasteful cover. Your understated graphic design. Your blurbs written by respected authors, set on the back cover in edgy, yet subtle, fonts.

Your first line will be part of a high school English quiz in 20 years. Your prose redefines our very language, your message embodies the zeitgeist of these times we live in, you are up for all of the prizes and, since your publication date, your author has amassed more Twitter followers than Taylor Swift.

You are the book of the year, if not the book of our generation.

I know this because I read one chapter of you before putting you right back down again.

And then — here is my confession — I picked up a formulaic piece of fluff with a pretty cover and a predictable plot, and I read it, cover to cover, voraciously. There are werewolves in it, and lots of unrealistic sex. It’s fast-paced, all the dialogue is clever to the point of being precious, and everyone’s clothes are described in great detail. Even their accessories.

I know. I know. I’m sorry. But please know that this isn’t about you. I want to read you. Lots of people I respect are reading you. It’s not even that I fear I won’t like you (there is merit to reading a book you don’t like, after all). I just don’t have the wherewithal read you right now.

I’ve got some stuff going on, and I need my entire brain, heart and soul to deal with real life. I can’t concentrate on your perfect plot. The drama of your well-rounded characters is stressing me out. I’m not strong enough for you right now. I’m not ready for that emotional commitment.

This book about sexy werewolves doesn’t ask anything of me. In fact, it means nothing to me, and that’s exactly what I need right now.

I’m sure I’ll read you someday when everyone has already read you. And then I’ll be obsessed, and everyone whose mind is being blown now will roll their eyes. Perhaps then there will have been a film adaptation or something. I’m not above watching that. I’m not proud.

I do hate that I’m putting you on my to-be-read list with the classics I haven’t gotten to yet, because I’d like to be a part of the conversation that surrounds you while it’s happening. But if I force myself to read you right now, I might end up hating you, and I don’t want that for either of us.

Look, I know that this is like turning down tickets to Hamilton in order to go see Phantom, but sometimes you just need to watch a chandelier fall.

See you in maybe a decade,

A reader