READING IS COOL
“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.”—Dr. Seuss
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” –Dr. Seuss
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” –George R.R. Martin
Every time I buy an article of clothing, I feel at least a little twinge of guilt, if not more. I have enough clothes to last me for the rest of my life, and then some.
I have enough books to last me for three more lifetimes. Still, I keep buying more. And I have yet to feel guilty when I purchase a book. Not even a twinge.
“I always read. You know how sharks have to keep swimming or they die? I’m like that. If I stop reading, I die.” –Patrick Rothfuss
I have had a life-long love affair with books. We didn’t buy a lot of new books as children, but we certainly borrowed them.
I have fond memories of going to the church basement after church on Sundays to check out a book from the church library. Sometimes we had to wait a few minutes for the volunteer librarian to arrive after mass, but we were allowed to start browsing.
We had our catechism classes in that same basement, and I remember looking longingly at the shelves of books during class, eagerly anticipating my next trip there.
Our small school—first it was a Catholic grade school, then it became public when I was in the fourth grade—always had a library as well.
There was a lending library through the mail as well. We would get a small catalog from this library a few hours away in Great Bend, Kansas, and we would send our requests to them on a postcard, they would send the book in a package in the mail, and we would return it—postage paid—when we were done, or after two weeks, whichever came first.
New books were a rare treat, but I remember getting the Scholastic book orders in grade school. We were always allowed to buy one book, and sometimes the decision was excruciating. I wanted them all.
When the book orders arrived in the cardboard box, I remember the teacher would usually wait until the end of the day to hand them out; she knew we would be distracted otherwise.
I was a weird kid; I remember opening the book and burying my nose—I loved the smell. I am a weird adult, because I still do that, and I still love the smell. It takes me back.
I remember reading Nancy Drew. She was a rock-star super sleuth, and her adventures were enthralling. The Hardy Boys were her counterparts in grade-school reading, but I let the boys read them. I did read Encyclopedia Brown; I loved to put the clues together to solve the mysteries—some of them, anyway.
We were introduced to reading through. Little Golden Books. There were many, but I remember Suzanne’s favorite: Goodbye Tonsils. There was a little girl who had her tonsils out, just as Suzanne did. The doctor’s name was Dr. Constantinople. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember that. Fat lot of good that kind of information does me now.
I think I mostly read fiction as a teenager, but I do remember some informational books as well. I loved biographies, and I still do.
I remember a bookcase we had at the top of our stairs in our farmhouse. It was small, but it held most of the books we owned. If I recall right, we put our books in it after we were done reading them in order to share with everyone else.
I remember being possessive about several of my books.
It was a gift from a relative, and I read and re-read it, thumbing through to find my favorite jokes. The jokes were corny, but fit me well as a pre-teen girl. I wanted to make sure everyone else knew it was mine.
I only have several of my books from childhood; I think there was a time when book ownership waned in importance for me, so I let them go. I do have several books that belonged to Mom and Dad, and I treasure those. Mom loved to read, but I have more memories of Dad reading. We may be a bit biased here, but Dad knew so much, likely because he read so much.
“Of course, anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.” –David Quammen
Book ownership is very important to me now, and has been for many years. Bookstores and book sales continue to be a happy place for me, but I have to be careful, because I can spend the whole day absorbed in the hunt. Suzanne and I hit a garage sale yesterday that offered free books out of a small shed next to the garage,
and then a rummage sale that I had to tear myself away from.
I prefer a real book to an electronic book. A book is a multi-sensory experience: seeing it, feeling it and—for me—smelling it combine into a heady high for me.
I do have an e-reader, I acquired it quite accidentally about five years ago. At the annual river festival in our small city, our local library used to sponsor a “get caught reading” contest. If their staff member on patrol “caught” you reading during the festivities, your name was entered into a drawing for a Kindle. I take books with me whenever I think I may have even a few moments to read. I distinctly remember my husband teasing me in a good-natured manner, calling me a “nerd” and telling me how un-cool it was to read in such a place. I was “caught” shortly after that comment. Several days later, they called me to notify me that, out of 248 people who were entered, I was the winner.
I promptly let my husband know just how cool it is to read—anywhere, anytime.
Gail and Suzanne are readers, too. Suzanne, ever the minimalist—and probably the wisest of all three of us—keeps her collection to a minimum, but borrows regularly from the library.
She was a few minutes late meeting me for an outing several weeks ago. I easily excused her, because the library had just called as she was leaving, and told her the book they ordered for her was in. I understood the urgency of stopping at the library first.
Gail and I like to display our books–can you guess who her favorite fiction author is?
Gail’s books are part of her decorating style in her home. She wanted it made clear that the book on top of this stack was a bonus inside a box she bought at an auction.
I keep stacks in my space as well.
I even build shelves out of books.
I keep a stack roughly this size next to my bed at all times, because, at any given time, I am reading about this many books. I read primarily non-fiction, because it is my goal to keep my real life more interesting than fiction. The exception is Stephen King. I usually have one of his more mild books going at any given time. I was introduced to his magic by a patient, who recommended one of his books that involved her diagnosis, as well as a very realistic account of life in rehab therapy. Stephen King himself had to endure many grueling and painful hours in physical therapy after being struck as a pedestrian in 1999, an accident that almost took his life.
Libraries have always brought me solace as well. I should check out more books versus buying them, but owning a book is an unparalleled high for me.
I recall my first few weeks into the year I spent in Philadelphia. I was far away from home, alone and lonely. There was a library close, and I knew I would find peace and temporary respite there. I arrived and browsed a bit. I found a few books and went to the desk to sign up for a library card. Because I didn’t have in-state identification, I wasn’t allowed to borrow their books.
I went back to my car and cried.
“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” —Lena Dunham
I have often thought that if there were a bonus hour added to each day that had to be filled only with something one enjoys, I would fill it with reading. I like the idea of an entire day even better. If I ever find myself feeling guilty about spending time reading, I remember Stephen King’s admonition to aspiring writers. In essence, he said that if one expects to be a good writer, then you must read at least as much as you write. He likely knows what he is talking about.
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” –J.K. Rowling
Those words from a famous author should not be dismissed. If reading is not your thing, then perhaps you need to keep looking. Reading is food for your brain, and just as you may not like some foods, some books may not be appealing to you, either. Keep reading the menu, keep sampling different dishes.
Reading to children is advice that cannot be ignored. If our parents had not read to us, had not made books important, our lives would not be as rich as they are. A good book can make a good day better, and can make a bad day good. They can be an escape when one needs to escape. I have heard it said that we should not say “I am going to read a book,” rather, “I am going to ‘visit’ a book,” as if it is a real place. It can be a very real and wonderful place in your mind.
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” –Groucho Marx
“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.’” –Helen Exley
There have been a few books that have made a profound difference in my life, and I am so glad they did. I hope you have found at least one book that has changed your life for the better. If you haven’t, then keep reading. And if you have, keep reading.
“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” –Louisa May Alcott