A Canadian, a former math teacher, a Chinese Harvard grad, and a blond girl walk into a book club...

The first book I ever read alone, front to cover, was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was four. I am not kidding.

Around age seven (my daughter's age as of yesterday, GO SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY) I discovered Erma Bombeck, and life became good. Gooder. The goodest.

When I was in junior high school, I was the official school reader. I read *every* new book that came into the library, and then wrote one 3X5 index card review on the book. The librarian kept those on file - sorted by genre, by me - for popular kids with a life who wanted a book but needed crutches suggestions. I got beat up a lot. 

All of that reading and getting beat up made me a very angsty young person indeed, who over time discovered the likes of Louis Carroll, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palanuik, and John Irving. And I haven't really needed anything since. 

I tell you all of that to show you my in-case-of-fire book pile. 

There are a few books missing from that pile (my Alice is Wonderland books, to name more-than-one-but-less-than-734) but that is the actual 'separate-17-years-of-marital-pulp-assets' pile, photo taken while he was smoking so he wouldn't yell at me for taking pictures of fucking EVERYTHING, JESUS SHANNON.

(Audre Lorde said everything can be used except what is wasteful,  and she wasn't kidding.)

So I got stuck in a 20-year long book rut. I re-read the exact same books over and over and over again. I always thought it was bizarre that my mother could read you the entire introduction to the Hitchhiker's Guide without needing to be in the same room as the book, and now? Yeah. Ask me any line of any poem in UndersongWe all become our parents. 

It's really hard to get me to read something new. You pretty much have to sell me on really whacked storyline or whackeder presentation, or be the Cactus-Fish family. My books are some of the best friends I have, and I just this second realized that I'm not all that different than I was at 13. Wider, to be certain, but not too different. 

For me, it isn't even always so much the story as it is the book, which is why I always said you'd have to pay me to use an e-reader. You can't smell an e-reader and if you can, you're reading the wrong kinds of things on it, perv. You can't scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day, if your highlighter lasts that long. 

Except you can scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day. Except someone did offer to pay me to use an e-reader. And that leads me to the whole bunch of brand new books I'm reading on The Copia's social e-reader over the next few months with a few of my best friends - Doug, Jim, and Tanis. Because they're way more fun to drink with than Maslow's Principals of Abnormal Psychology, that's why. 

We have this little social group book club thing (see children? reading gets you into clubs with ridiculously hot, smart people, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) and we've each chosen one book that all four of us have to read in a month's time. We have wildly varied tastes in books, to say the very least. This is going to be so much fun. 

We'll be reading together and leaving each other notes in the margins through the Copia app for iPad, Android, and desktop. Will I love it? Time will tell. Jim says it's like live-tweeting a book! but I hope it's more like having actual conversations with actual people. Which are probably the same thing now, huh? Get off my dewey decimal system. 

You can totally follow along with us. There's the main group of Copia Parents, but we have a sub-group called, of course, "Tanis, Doug, Jim, and Shannon Do Books," because I made the group and I am a 12 year old boy. You probably need a Copia account to join our group and follow along, but that's cool because A) accounts are free and B) each of us are giving away 10 books to our readers to help get you started. You could chose your own book, or you could chose the books we're reading and read with us.  

We're staring our book club with Doug's pick, Telegraph Avenue, because he said we were and we do what he says. I'm thinking about choosing Bastard Out of Carolina, because Lesbian Dad says I have to read it and she has impeccable taste in literature and wingtips. I also kind of want to read Brains, A Zombie Memoir, recommended by my boss' partner, but I also-also want to read Orphans of the Living, recommended to me by Ilina Das Ewan, who is wiser than she is beautiful, which is equally awesome and terrifying. 

This is why you never ask the Pisces to go first. 

What I want to know is what you'd like to read. Leave a comment telling me the book you can't stop reading, and then the title of a book you'd like to read that you never have before, and next week I'll randomly choose 10 winners of those books. My (rapidly growing) Copia library is right here, if you want to cherry-pick book ideas or mock me for being so incredibly lame. 

The Editing Games

My brother and I weren't allowed to read children's books when we were little kids. Momma say chill'en book are da debil, which made children's books no different than the lorikeet, my stuffed Ziggy doll, the avocado-green Chinet plastic plates, the china hutch, the Alvin and the Chipmunks cassette taped over the Blue Oyster Cult because my father cannot resist poking a stick at a hive full of crazy, the silverware, and (occasionally) my big brother. 

Chinet plates and silverware will not melt, no matter how hard you try to make them. Neither will my big brother. Bygones. 

We were allowed to read the bible all we wanted, and we had a book of bible stories that we could read, too. Aside from that, my mother read us only two books -- The History of Physics by Isaac Asimov and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Those were our bedtime stories. This may have been the only good choice my mother made in her 24-year-long career as a parent. 

This information is simply context for the rest of this post; I have a massive bias against (most) children's books. I am also still convinced the world is probably going to end before, like, 2017 or something. There are some things you can unbrainwash, and then there is dogma. More on that later.

I try, like all mothers do, to give my kids better than I was given, and so we have children's books in the house. I've even read a few. *gasp* There are some really great ones (Sandra Boyton? *piles* of win.) and some really horrible ones. Have you ever tried to read the first five Magic Tree House books? It took them five books' time to find an editor who didn't instantly commit harakiri with the nearest semi-colon upon reading that woman's "writing."

Grammar isn't just a snobbish set of preferences; it's like the traffic laws, or maybe even the sheet music, for words. Pixies sounds amazing, all jumbled up and off-key and wah-wah-peddled to death, but if you sat down and tried to read No. 13 baby you'd gore a hole in your frontal lobe with a bass clef. 

The thing is, fragments? Can be used cleverly to make a point, or. Well. You know. They just make sentences choppy. Difficult to read. Doubly so if you're reading them aloud.  

I pretty much banned the Magic Tree House books from my house during my sons' formative years because they were impossible, annoying, and insulting to read out loud, but also because I didn't want them learning to read with that nonsense as their model for acceptable grammar. This whole deal sucked, because the stories are actually quite lovely.

When I attended Parent Night at my kids' middle school this fall, I learned that they don't actually teach grammar to children anymore, at least not in our school district. A parent had asked when they would cover grammar, in between creative writing and reading comprehension and all that jazz, and the teacher said, "Oh, we don't teach that." When asked why, she replied, "because they aren't tested on it," and then alluded to the fact that they would learn it as they went, by, you know, reading

This is what they're, you know, reading.

Supple leather that has molded itself to my feet wwwwhhhhaaatt??? ::tears hair out:: 

This is not me saying that I am so much better than anyone else, or some master writer or anything. I didn't go to one day of college; I went to high school and then made martinis and babies, both in bars. I end sentences in prepositions all the damn time, I start sentences with and, but, and/or/also because. I personally guarantee you no fewer than three grammatical errors in any given post. And then there was this.   

But hell, I'm not a New York Times best-selling author who has a team of editors *at freaking Scholastic* working like crazy to make my book the best selling tweeny-bop novel of all time. 

Hunger Games, however, does

That paragraph up there in the picture is from page two of Hunger Games, and that's as far as I got into the book before I had to walk away from it. Those "liberties" she takes with grammar are brick walls that we crash into going 87 miles per hour with no airbag, and the entire story stops while we scrape our brains off of the ground, scoop them back into our heads, and ram them against that sentence again. 

I think the arguments that it's written for young adults or that it's all just 'creative writing' are malarkey. Why on earth don't we need to use proper grammar when it comes to our teenagers? For little kids, sure, taking license works, and sometimes it works gorgeously, but for my 14-year-old? He can read through a semi-colon and if he can't yet, I'd like him to learn now before he becomes an adult and has to write as a professional man in the world. 

All I'm saying is that I'd like my children's first exposure to proper grammar to come from something other than the internet

In Chinese, if you use the wrong tiny little line in a word, your boss' business cards say Big Sauce instead of Big General. They execute motherfuckers for less.

Maybe what we really need is The Editing Games, where we pit editors from different publishing companies against each other in a race to the dangling participle. We could pair them boy/girl to create some future-perfect tension, and equip them with white-out, those ridiculous horn-rimmed glasses that are all the hipster-rage these days, and red marking pens filled with the blood of the last round's losers. 

The publishing team who actually has a fucking clue how to write a book in English gets the contract. May the subordinating conjunctions ever be in your favor.