An Essay by David Levithan
You may think it would be easiest for me to endorse reading as an author – after all, I want you to read my books, no? (The new one, TWO BOYS KISSING, is out at the end of August. Hint.) But really, when I think of endorsing reading, I think of doing it in one of my other roles. For example, as proud as I am of my own work, I am equally proud of the work I edit, by authors who continually astound with the paths their words take. Look no further than the works of, say, Natalie Standiford. Her YA novel HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT is the best indie movie you’ll ever read. Her middle-grade novel THE SECRET TREE manages to be both sweet and honest – not an easy thing to pull off, in books or in life. And her new YA novel, THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE, takes her someplace completely different – namely 1980s Russia, where an American student falls in love . . . with consequences that go far beyond a girl-meets-boy story. I love authors who change it up every time they write a novel – Natalie is just one of the many I work with. But let you think this endorsement is too biased (read Natalie’s books and you’ll see it’s not), I will then endorse reading as . . . well, a reader. I just finished Lauren Myracle’s THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US and feel like I just spent a few hours living in two teenager’s lives – that’s what a great book can do. In this case, it was a honest story about love and its complications, and about how damn hard love can be – and how crazysexyintense it can be, too. (It’s a nice companion to Rainbow Rowell’s also awesome ELEANOR AND PARK, which is also clear-sighted about love, albeit in a different way). I wouldn’t say that I read for truths, but I always love it when I stumble upon them. Which is to say … I guess I love reading for the same reasons I love life. Because you get to meet new words, new voices, new ideas, new ways of seeing the things that you see everyday – as well as things you will never, ever get to see (like, say Hogwarts.) I endorse reading because I am amazed by the wizardry-alchemy-harvesting that goes into writing, and how that can translate in the reader’s mind into meaning … or diversion. I endorse reading because sometimes my mind likes to unplug from the world and plug instead into a story, so it can conjure rather than reply all. To riff on Lauren’s title – there are, indeed, infinite moments of us. It’s nice, from time to time, to hold a few up to the light, to examine them and, through that, examine ourselves. At our own pace, and in our own time. That’s certainly worth endorsing.