The Pile in My Library Basket

As I commented recently to M or the Incredibly Patient Mother, probably both, I’m reading more “adult” books of late. I don’t mean books of a prurient nature but ones that are in the adult portion of the library rather than the teen or children’s room. This, I’m learning, comes as a shock to some people.

I must keep in mind that those in my immediate day to day don’t recognize that I haven’t always read children’s literature. Though widely read as a child,* I skipped the teen section almost entirely and went straight for Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton around the age of twelve. Through college and graduate school, the reading I did outside of class tended far more towards escape literature: short romances or mysteries. After a forty page dense essay on taxonomies or the ethics of the copy machine, you too would be ready for an easily solvable crime where the killing is done off-scene and a happy ending is achieved in under 200 pages.

Then I started working in children’s departments. This hadn’t really been the original plan–I’d wanted to go for music cataloging. But previous experience working with children led me to Chicago Public and now La Crosse Public in the Youth Services departments. And if I haven’t read the fiction books–it’s awfully hard to make a good recommendation to the patrons coming in.

So, for nearly two years I’ve piled on the children’s books. The selection these days seems better written and from a far greater variety than I remember as a child**, this excepting the diabetes-inducing series that I can’t order enough of to make our little princesses, superheros, fairies, underwater sponges, and pop stars happy. Our Teen Librarian really enjoys her work too, which means there are a lot of spiffy teen novels that follow me home as well.

But a diet of literature intended for those under 18 (or spiced only with that familiar escape literature), has lost some of the appeal. So I’m wading through Buy-ology (review to come soon) and going back to Four Queens. The latter isn’t really a stretch, I like European histories of Medieval and Renaissance times and actually read an Eccesiastical History of the Bristish People for pleasure***. The former caught my eye somewhere and has proved interesting thus far. We’ll see. I still haven’t ventured much into adult fiction for the moment, outside of my usual consumption of cozy mysteries and regency romances at a rate that seems to not surprise only the circulation staff (who are either too polite or are taking bets on how many I’ll check out in the next month).

But while I know my reading has been rather focused, it’s been strange to hear reactions to the book s. Based on those, you’d think I’d never read anything above a sixth grade audience level. “Oh, an adult book.” First the surprise and then the backpedaling. “Well, it’s not that you can’t read one, I just never see you read one” seems to be a popular refrain, despite the fact that the people speaking rarely see me read anything other than those cozy mysteries and romances (the latter of which come with their own assumptions and reader baggage). Children’s lit tends to be consumed at home.

Ah, the joys of other people’s assumptions about me. Here’s your friendly afternoon reminder not to assume–for you know what it makes, right?

*The Incredibly-Patient-Mother’s rule about library books was that I had to be able to carry them all to the car by myself. Fortunately, I just had to make it to the car. Once we got home, I could make two trips into the house.
**Though I’m sure I missed some gems of the 80s
***And to a lot of weird looks on the subway