This is my open letter to all the books I’ve lied about reading. I hope I’m not alone in this. There are so many books out there, and I’m tired of hearing: “Oh my gosh! You haven’t read it yet? You simply must!” Look either I’ll get there or I won’t, calm down about it.
I wanted to start off by saying that I’m sorry. I know that most of you are probably really great and that I would enjoy my time with you. It’s not that I don’t want to read you. It’s that other things keep getting in the way. And I know that’s not really an excuse—most of you have been around longer than those other books, you have seniority! And I hear you, I really do. But I want to read the new releases too. (Also, just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re better). I want to take the time to explain myself to you, both why I haven’t yet gotten to you, and why I lied.
The truth is, a lot of you have not aged well. And I know that’s a mean thing to say! You’re pillars of the literary canon across many genres! You’re so important that people write their dissertations about you, and quote you while sitting in a plush chair smoking a pipe. But also, as a queer person, I almost never see myself in you. I hear sad stories about your closeted authors and shadowed lonely spinsters and bachelors. That doesn’t sound like the optimal reading experience for me.
In addition to not seeing myself in you, I don’t see a lot of other people there either. I see characters who look like me, but very rarely an authentic representation of people of color. A lot of you have enforced the stigma of disability, and villainize those people. Some of you not only perpetuate ideas of hate but also are just flat out mean. And while I really do understand that since you are in fact, a book, you can’t help but be a product of your time and creator, I don’t want to spend time in “important” books that perpetuate hateful stigmas. Which is, unfortunately, a lot of you.
And, let’s be honest. Some of you are just too long. You were created in a time where those who had access to books had lots of time on their hands, by well educated and bored authors. Shockingly, I am not part of the leisure class. I don’t have time to read 800 pages about petty disputes among the bourgeoise, that really is code for a representation of “the human condition” as you understand it (you know who you are). I want to read 800 pages about dragons and gay people instead, and if I had the time, I would, and do.
This isn’t to say that all of you fit into the above categories. In fact, quite a lot of you rage against the types of books listed above. I want to get to you so soon! But there are so many incredible books published every year, and so many books I loved so much the first time that I want to spend more time with them. Some of you, I’ll never get to. And I’m very sorry about that. I’m glad you impacted someone’s life in such a way as you have! That’s really exciting and I’m happy for you and your reader.
Now, the reason I lied: While there are many reasons, namely it’s the reactions I get from your fans when I say I haven’t read you yet. It’s…a lot. I’m happy that people are excited about you, but them telling me that I need to read you next, and admonishing me for not having gotten to you yet, is tiring. Better to nod, and quickly change the subject.
At the end of the day, I do want to get to you, and I’m sorry I lied about reading you. It probably will happen again, and I’m going to work on that. I’m going to try and do better, but for now, I’m asking you for your patience. There’s a lot of you, and only one of me, so it’s going to take me a while.
I hope this letter finds you well, and that you are enjoying doing whatever it is that books do when I’m not looking.