TGIF: A Very Special Episode

image courtesy of greads.com

TGIF at GReads is a fun feature for recapping the week’s posts (which I usually skip) and answering a book-blogging question posed by Ginger.

This week the question is: Issue Books: Which books have you found to be very rewarding when it comes to tackling tougher issues?

My short answer: anything by John Green

My long, meandering answer:
Ok, so when I think about “issue books,” I think of those very special episodes of TV series I’d watch as a kid.  You know, like that Saved by the Bell episode where Jessie gets hooked on uppers.  Or the episode of Captain Planet where that one kid started popping pills and they made his eyes red (Wikipedia informs me that this episode was called “Mind Pollution” which makes me laugh).  And the thing is I HATE very special episodes.  This says volumes about what a wimp I am, but the very special episodes scared me to death as a kid.  Like gave me nightmares.  As an adult, I really hate them because scaring people about issues 1. doesn’t work and 2. isn’t very nice.  Generally speaking, then, I steer clear of “issue books” because I don’t appreciate the singular focus and mishandling of issues like rape, drug abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, bullying, etc.  (That said, however, I do appreciate when those issues are more deftly woven into a story so that it transcends being just a very special episode and is more like a book where characters face realistic circumstances and have realistic experiences.)

Really, when I want to read about big issues, I want to read about more abstract things like life, death, love, and loss and that is why I picked anything by John Green as my answer for this question.  John Green has a really great way of discussing the big abstract issues that we all face without moralizing.  He encourages his readers to come up with their own answers to the big questions.  In Looking for Alaska, for example, the characters were asked to identify an important life question and to answer it and Pudge ends up writing an essay about the labyrinth of suffering.  For me, anyways, this was an open invitation to think about my own views about the meaning of life and the meaning of suffering and if I had been reading this in a group setting, this would have been a great launch-point for discussion.  That is how issue books should be written!

If you are a new John Green reader and interested in big issues I recommend you check out Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars first!

How do you feel about very special episode books?  What are your favorites?

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5 thoughts on “TGIF: A Very Special Episode

  1. OK random comment. Yesterday one of my co-workers randomly sang the line “I’m so excited” and I asked her, “Do you think of Tina Turner or Jessie Spano when you sing/hear that?”. Her response, “Jessie Spano, definitely”. And I think that is the response you would get from anyone between the ages of 22 and 32.

    And agreed on John Green. My next choice would be The Hunger Games – not necessarily a “issue” books, but they tackle so many without being preachy.

  2. Totally agree with you about special issue books. I don’t really have any want to read books that deal with issues. I like more vague topics like you listed – ones that let you form your own opinion. The only time I really like reading (as much as you can like reading) about special issues is when they’re woven into a storyline but aren’t the main focus of that storyline.

    • Yeah, I agree! I really don’t react very well to preaching or moralizing… it just doesn’t seem like the right way to teach someone about the issues of the world.

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