Last year, forty reared its head at me. I cried. I laughed. I remembered all the foolishness and joys, leading me to my acquired age. I planned a longer bucket list to explore. I danced. I cried some more.
Creating a list of what to read by forty ceased to cross my mind.
You see these lists everywhere, plaguing websites and printed media: What to Read in Your Twenties, What Every Woman Should Read By 35, and, today’s list by email, 40 Books to Read By 40. Annoying. Presumptuous. Smug.
What happens if you never read them? Love loss. Spontaneous combustion. Explosive diarrhea? Guess what. Nothing happens. Yet, these lists make you as though you fail, if you don’t reach some imagined age goal.
Yes, your twenties exclaim world and life exploration, but guess what, some people do not reach these explorations until their forties, fifties, and beyond. Maybe life chose another path for them to venture (e.g. marriage, children, sickness). Maybe they could not afford what they thought they’d have by a certain age. By whose standards do we base our lives, which includes continuous exploration and learning should we accept the challenge? Some snooty editors of a website or magazine, clinging to their perceptions of what makes a life complete. Not cool.
Bottom line: I hate these lists.
Not only are they smug and based on people living with their heads up their posteriors, but they tend to include boring books without a shred of diversity. Yes, dead white, straight dudes (women too) telling you how to live. So, we forget about LGBT individuals, people of color, the disabled, women not meeting some ridiculous standard, and other people offering life coaching unlike any other, for boring tomes claiming to possess the answer to every facet life spits at us.
Take, for instance, Lolita‘s placement on every list as a quintessential read. Sorry. The book’s boring. Yet, the film’s superb (It’s one of the few, successful book to film adaptations). Stanley Kubrick directs. James Mason, Shelley Winters, and Peter Sellers star. Heart-shaped glasses, people!!! Heart-shaped glasses trended after this film.
As a book? It’s boring and not essential reading, unless you pine for page after page of a pervert’s desire to ravish a kid. However, the film entertains faster. But, that’s my opinion.
By the way, whose forty do they reference? Someone in 1977. Or, the forties of today because I guarantee you my forty does not compare to my mother’s or my grandmother’s. I still rock short jean shorts and band shirts. I stream my music and watch the original Beverly Hills, 90210 as if the show never stopped airing. My husband plays video games and basketball. We still listen to Wu-Tang Clan and The Foo Fighters.
If you insist on making this lists, include Stephen King, Toni Morrison and Judy Blume, for starters. These authors shaped my love for reading. Talk to forty year-olds without boxing us. We own the diversity your lists do not. Get hip or get out.
Do these lists annoy you as they do me? Share your comments below.