I haven’t been blogging very much recently largely because, in a very uncharacteristic manner, I’ve hardly been on my computer at all. I’ve retreated back to the sort of behaviours I exhibited before I discovered online communities and friends when I was thirteen — sitting around reading book after book, and hardly turning on the computer at all except when I need to look something up or send an email.
Of course, I now have a smartphone which means I’m rarely absent from Facebook or Twitter for any length of time, but that’s a small matter compared to the sheer amazement that most people feel when I’m not constantly online. I’ve barely been on Tumblr at all recently. I’ve barely even been on Netflix. Because I’ve been reading.
And honestly, it feels pretty good to just absorb stories one after the other and let them sink into the ether of my mind to swirl around and help me with my own writing. Which … I’m not doing a whole lot of at the moment, but there are ten million reasons for that. Mainly that I broke my worldbuilding and have to start that from scratch before I can do anything else. Oops.
Mostly I’m reading purely for fun, with no thought to how others perceive my reading material. Even though the parents give me weird looks when I’m in the children’s section of the library, I’m not going to let that put me off picking up fun books.
I’ve been loving the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, even though I know objectively speaking they’re not literary works of genius. They’re fun, engaging stories with interesting / amusing / heartbreaking characters (I have adopted Nico di Angelo and he is my angsty little hell-raising child). Likewise I’m working my way through Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. Both of these are recommendations from Engie @ Musings From Neville’s Navel, so she’s entirely to blame for everything.
So now that I’m back in my home town, I’m haunting the library here. Seriously, I’ve been to the nearest one three times already, and once to another — four library trips in less than six full days of being at home is quite a lot. I keep accidentally borrowing far more books than I intend to.
Some of them are better than others. You can always discover gems when you take a risk — and libraries allow you to take risks, because if something’s no good, you haven’t lost any money or shelf space. Others look fun but aren’t as good as they look. Today I read Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn, which had a cool concept, but ultimately disappointed me, which is a shame: books based on Norse mythology are rare, although not as much as they used to be.
And then there was the real shock: my local library’s been reorganised. Well, more than that. It’s been refurbished, and they’ve built a room to house the library computers, and there’s new furniture. Everything’s laid out differently, which was quite a shock. I came home expecting familiarity and found instead I was in an alien environment.
Some of it’s an improvement, but there were two things that stood out to me.
The first is that the children’s section and the teens’ section are now on completely opposite sides of the library, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, given how much the readership crosses over. I wondered at first if they were concerned about kids reading teen books there weren’t suitable for their age group, but since they’re now next to general adult fiction, I think that can’t be their reasoning. Perhaps they thought there wasn’t a lot of crossover?
Personally, when I was a bit younger I was embarrassed to be seen in the children’s section, largely because I thought it made me look younger and I had enough trouble with that as it was. I used to slip in there as though just passing through on my way to the main desk, and have a quick look. Nowadays I walk in there much more confidently, because I’m unashamed of my love of stories, but I still feel like it ought to be nearer to the teen books.
Especially because I imagine this layout will (a) stop teens from discovering fun children’s books and (b) stop older children reading more challenging books.
Plus there are some books in the kids’ section that are totally shelved wrong and should be counted as YA, so there’s that. I guess it’s sometimes hard to tell, but even without reading them I’d read the blurb and look at who wrote it and figure it’s probably YA.
The other thing is that there’s no longer a “Gay and Lesbian Fiction” shelf, or any variation on that. No “LGBT Fiction”. Nothing like that. It’s not that they’ve got rid of the books themselves, because I spotted at least one on the general fiction shelves, although I can’t say for sure that it was ever in the queer section before. But they’ve been put in with the rest of the fiction.
On the one hand, I think this is a good thing. It means that people are more likely to stumble on the books, which may open their minds, and it means that a nervous queer reader doesn’t have to be quite so obvious about their borrowing habits. On the other hand, if you’re specifically looking for queer fiction, it’s now impossible to find unless you already know where to look.
I have the benefit of having excellent book gaydar. Seriously. The number of books I pick up by chance only to discover that they’re queer is disproportionately high. Even so, it’s not easy.
So I’m not sure if I’m pleased that they’re counting LGBT Fiction amongst the general fiction or whether I’d rather it had its own shelf again, but it’s something that may merit conversation. (Feel free to offer your opinion in the comments.)
What are you reading at the moment? I’ve got a whole stack and I can’t choose what to read next — perhaps Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge (I’ve read other books by Hardinge and loved them), or The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (which I suspect will contain lesbians because all her books do). Or perhaps something else entirely, as the mood strikes me.
I love having time to read and books to choose from. It’s so much fun.