Genre Shame is a Waste of Time

I made a comment in 137 Books in One Year that genre shame is a waste of time. It’s something I learned through my reading, but I found the sentiment most eloquently expressed by Veronica Roth in her post Shame: The Ultimate Time Vampire. Roth is the author of the young adult dystopian thriller Divergent, which she wrote while studying creative writing at Northwestern University.

Writing that kind of a genre-specific book in that kind of a literary-focused environment, you learn a thing or two about genre shame. Much of Roth’s post talks about the writing end of genre shame.

But she also starts with the fact that genre shame kept her from enjoying reading for years:

The last time (excluding the past three months) that I remember loving to read was eighth grade. That’s right: eight years ago. What happened, you ask? People told me I was too smart to read what I liked to read. They said I should be reading “college-level books.” I started to feel ashamed of what I wanted to read, and I tried to read what I was “supposed” to be reading. But the problem was that I didn’t enjoy those books, and I couldn’t force myself to enjoy them, and I hated feeling like I was stupid for not liking them, so I stopped reading altogether.

That’s complete and total crap.

A book has to be snooty enough to be worth your time? Please. We should read because we enjoy it, not because we have to. Not because it’s good for us. Not because it’s labeled a classic. There are so many classics that have ruined reading for people because they were forced through an awful book. If I had to read Tess of the D’Ubervilles again I probably would give up on reading.

I can’t finish a Hemingway novel.

I hated Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

I have zero interest in Charlotte Bronte.

But you know what? That’s OK. Read what you love. It’s OK to read that smut novel. Or yet another vampire story. Or more space marines. Whatever floats your boat.

Go ahead, it’s OK.

Don’t waste your time being ashamed of your favorite genres. Don’t feel like you have to read the classics because they’re the classics. Whatever. Find your own classics (I’ve started my own list).

I love reading young adult fiction with teen characters struggling to find out who they are (13 Reasons Why).

I love reading realistic space sci-fi, light on the aliens, heavy on the application of big ideas (Old Man’s War).

I even have a soft spot for a good zombie novel (Zone One).

And I’ve mentioned my love for post-apocalyptic sci-fi too many times (Wool).

If you like the classics, great. But don’t force them on the rest of us. Read what you love, and don’t be ashamed.

Ownership vs. Subscription Economy

I’ve realized lately the entertainment industry is undergoing a pretty radical shift.


OK, so this isn’t ground-breaking territory. But I’m seeing the implications in my daily life much more than I have before.

So there are a few ways to get entertainment content, which vary slightly depending on medium:

  • Experience – You go somewhere and you experience your entertainment. This happens primarily with music and movies. You go somewhere and either watch a movie or see a concert. You’re paying for a one-time experience. I suppose this method has pre-dated all technology.
  • Broadcast – The entertainment is free, but you have to watch ads. This is the commercial-supported model of TV and radio. Again, you’re only getting a one-time experience.
  • Ownership – As media has become cheaper and smaller, ownership has become a relatively recent option. You can purchase your entertainment in your preferred medium and enjoy it as long as you like.
  • Subscription – This is the newest model championed by Netflix and Hulu Plus for movies/TV and Spotify for music, among others. You pay a monthly fee and get access to a nearly endless archive of on-demand music, TV and movies.

Continue reading Ownership vs. Subscription Economy

Some of My Favorite Books

While writing my recent book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, I tried to reflect on some of my favorite books of all time, and especially what makes them my favorite books.

These kinds of lists are always hard and weirdly defined and vary greatly from one person to the next. So you’ll have to bear with me. I stuck to fiction and a sense of longevity, which I’ll try to explain next.

It seems that some of my favorites are books I keep coming back to. Either I remember the plot even decades later or the ideas the stories brought up just keep coming back to my mind. To be a real favorite it needed to have that kind of longevity. There are books I loved, but years later I couldn’t tell you what happened. Those are still good books, but they didn’t quite make my vaguely defined cut.

So here are some of my favorite fiction books from throughout my reading life:

Ask me tomorrow and I’d probably come up with a different list, but there you go. Oddly enough, few of my favorite authors ended up in the list (such as Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeleine L’Engle, etc.), perhaps because while I love their writing, often their stories either don’t stand out or blur together because I’ve read so many of them. I couldn’t tell you plot points in Crooked Little Heart or Prodigal Summer, but I did love those books when I read them. For whatever reason, they just didn’t stick with me (perhaps candidates for a re-read?).

So what are some of your favorite books (regardless of how you define ‘favorite’)?

Kid President: Broken But Still Dancing

I’ve been enamored lately with Kid President. Surely you’ve seen or heard about his “Pep Talk” video that’s garnered 12 million views and counting. His whole schtick is encouraging people to be more awesome. And dance.

“It’s like that dude Journey says, ‘Don’t stop believing.’ Unless your dream is stupid. Then you should get a better dream.”

You might as well stop and watch the video now. It’s that awesome:

But the real story behind Kid President is even more awesome. Kid President is 9-year-old Robby Novak of Henderson, Tenn. He has osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that makes his bones brittle and break easily. The move-busting Kid President has had more than 70 broken bones in his life, 13 surgeries and steel rods inserted in his legs.

“I’m broken right now, but I can still dance,” he says in his “True Story” video.

Robby’s positive attitude has always been infectious and he started creating videos with his older brother-in-law, Bradley Montague, just to goof around. They started just sharing the videos with family. But in July of 2012 they started posting the videos online and tweeting at @IAmKidPresident (the Twitter bio describes it as a “family project”). Three months later the videos were noticed by Rainn Wilson of The Office and became a part of his online venture and YouTube channel Soul Pancake.

Kid President is well loved in our house. Not only have we picked up on one of his best catch phrases (“Not cool Robert Frost!”), but there are some awesome similarities: Robby is adopted and has a sister named Lexi. Every time I get another glimpse of his real life, it’s as good as another Kid President video.

It’s fun to see kids doing this kind of online awesomeness. It’s this kind of thing I was hoping for (but couldn’t possibly imagine something like this) when I was working on the Kids Creating Stuff Online ebook.

Update: This is how the kids spent today’s snow day: