If you didn’t read a book last year …

If you didn’t read a book last year, then I doubt very much that you’d be reading the blog of someone BlogPostwho spends most of her waking hours either gushing about books or thinking about them or trying to write one. But I hesitate to make assumptions because I really have no idea who these 23 percent of Americans are that the Pew Research Center says did not read a book in the past year. Part of me hopes they made an error, or that their release was intended as some sort of joke. Another part of me—the part that works for a newspaper and has watched in terror as print media deteriorates faster even than the polar ice caps–acknowledges that there might be some truth to this.

So the first thing I have to tell you, if you didn’t read a book last year is that you terrify me. More than sharks or needles, more than sharks armed with needles, and more than needles armed with sharks.

If you didn’t read a book last year, I have to wonder what you did instead. Maybe you were in prison, the kind where they don’t give you access to them. Except that I thought prisons encouraged inmates to read, to further their education. Or perhaps you were too sick to read, in which case I’m very sorry because you must have been very sick. For my part, what little sickness I’ve encountered has actually served as a good time for reading. It’s easier to set aside your pain when you pick up a book. Or perhaps you were too busy caring for a loved one. And I understand that too. Sometimes it’s harder, more exhausting and draining to care for someone else than it is to be sick yourself.

Or maybe you were none of these things, and had sufficient time to read a book. And you didn’t. Maybe you aren’t sold on the idea of books, you think they have nothing to offer. And of course I’m going to tell you that isn’t true. I wrote a book. I’m writing this blog when I should be working on my second. And it’s in my best interest to ensure I have an audience. But the truth is, if my book did not exist and I knew for certain that none written by my own hand ever would, I would still tell you to read a book. To escape. To forget. To remember. To learn. To love. To hate. To fight. To evolve. To connect. To explore. To give aspiring writers like me some little hope that there’s still some place for us in the world.

Read a book. Please. Any book. Read Pride and Prejudice to fall in love. Read Little Women to remember the intense pleasure and pain of being a young tomboy in a world that doesn’t quite understand you. Read Where the Red Fern Grows to mourn, and to celebrate how terribly dear animals are. Read A Confederacy of Dunces to laugh. Read Jane Eyre because it’s so much better than the movie. Read Wicked to get the other side of the story. Read Frankenstein so you’ll know who Frankenstein is, and read Winter’s Tale because it will teach you new and beautiful words and you probably won’t remember them all afterward and it’s OK. Because you’ll know that you can go back to them, the world’s still there, waiting for you. It’s always there. All it requires of you is your attention.

If you didn’t read a book last year, there’s nothing I can do to change that. There’s nothing anyone can do to change that. The past is the past. But all you have to do is start with one. Go to your nearest library and talk to the librarian. Tell her what you like, what you don’t like. She’ll be thrilled to help you find your match, I promise you that. Because people who love books are always keen to share them. And if there is no library, ask your friend who reads to borrow a book. And if you don’t have friends who read and you don’t have a library, check to see if there’s a Little Free Library in your area. And if there is, go there. And if there isn’t, find someone in a cafe with a book in her hands, and ask her what you should read. Once she realizes you’re serious, and not trying to pick her up or be sarcastic, she’ll have suggestions. Visit Goodreads to track your progress and discover what other readers love.

Just don’t let another year pass without picking up a book. There are whole worlds to discover, people to meet, conversations to drop in on, and other readers who will be cheering you on as if you’ve just run the greatest and most importance race of your life.

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Comments

  1. I can’t even begin to calculate the number of hours I’ve spent reading in my lifetime!
    There’s a quote by Frank Serafini that is one of my favorites–and I think it’s true–“There is no such thing as a person who hates to read–there are only people who have not yet found the right book.”

    • I agree! I’ve known people who thought they didn’t like reading. In fact, my younger brother was one of them. And then he started reading fantasy novels and now he’s a reader. Just because you don’t like the books on your English syllabus in high school does not mean you don’t like reading. There’s no one book every single person can agree on but there is a book out there for everyone, and once you’re hooked there’s just no turning back. It’s like nothing else.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Every book I’ve ever read. They define me more than just about anything else I’ve seen or done. But, specifically, I’m […]

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