Old books, classics, ‘dated’ books

A confluence of things in the past few days: there’s Roger’s post about frontlist and backlist, this lovely appreciation of The Long Secret*, and me going over to-be-read lists from a year or two ago — and realizing that most of the books I had been sincerely intending to read have faded from the back of my mind, and the public eye, and no one’s going to die if I never get around to them.

My [non-kidlit] online cohort tends to be my age and a little older – late 20s, let’s say – and when they talk YA books they talk about the books of their youth and the classics; let’s say the 80s and older, ’60s and ’70s Newbery books and the better sort of YA fantasy. A Wrinkle In Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Lloyd Alexander, E.L. Konigsburg, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Susan Cooper, Ursula LeGuin, Robin McKinley. It’s not recent books.

On the kidlit blogs and mailing lists I’m on, on the other hand, people are talking about this year’s books and next year’s books, and the books of people who just died. Of course it’s true that in any medium, most of the releases are quickly forgotten — though children’s lit is supposed to have a more robust backlist because there are always new readers growing into the books.

There are so many good books getting published these days, but I can’t help wondering if they’re going to stick around or if everyone’s going to get excited about a book for just long enough to move on to the next exciting thing. (And then there’s the disconnect between teen books teens read and teen books librarians read; I think My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr is fabulous, for example, but I can’t imagine many teenagers reading it, and no wonder I never hear it mentioned). I have to admit I’ll be annoyed if the Twilight books survive the recent YA boom better than other books that don’t make me want to kill things.

 *I had The Long Secret read to me when I was seven. Clearly there are subtleties I missed out on.

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