World Book Day is celebrated in the United States on April 23rd. In honor of the occasion, I’m re-running an earlier post, “All About the Books.” I’ve also decided that since I call myself a writer, I might actually want to read one.
Many of you may recall it was a New Year’s resolution of mine to read a book a season. Now that I’ve missed winter and practically spring, this resolution has occured to me. I started The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe as recommended by a friend. Yes, someone is dying. But it has lots of great titles and plot synopsises that book lovers will be interested in. It’s a bit hypocritical of me since I’m reading the e-book this time, but my bookshelves are quite full and I wholeheartedly agree with this book’s defense of the printed word:
“One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. …they’ll confront you, and you’ll literally stumble… I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can’t feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight. They can get in your head but can’t whack you upside it.”
Want to know my dirty little secret? In college, I didn’t actually read the books. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I didn’t read all the books. I mean, c’mon! I was an English major. How was I supposed to read all those books and write the papers on them? Seriously, it was like a book a week or some crazy thing. I had a social life too, you know. There were football games to attend and keg parties to go to. And to me, those things were just as important as my education. (Hey, I was nineteen!)
I always felt bad about that. Everyone assumes that an English major is well-read. And the first piece of advice you ever hear about writing is that to write well, you need to read a lot of books.
So, I set about making up for lost time. I read a lot throughout my twenties and thirties. I consulted old reading lists. I read Oprah’s picks. I even bought into that Classic Book of the Month club until it proved too costly and I dropped out. I still have two books from then, leather-bound, edges leafed in gold: Moby Dick and Great Expectations. I started Great Expectations for the first time this weekend, spurred on by my own blog. The point is, it’s never too late.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~Oscar Wilde
Though I strayed in college, I’d been a pretty voracious reader as a child and adolescent. I loved and collected all of the Nancy Drew series. I was shocked to learn they sell those in antique stores now. (Great.) As a child, my grandparents gave me The Boxcar Children about four orphans who run away and set up house in an old boxcar. The children wash and keep milk cold in a nearby stream. They find old dishes to use in a dump. It was one of my favorites — independent even then.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
I realized at a young age, the comfort a book can provide. I remember spending part of a summer at my aunt’s, desperately homesick. The only thing that consoled me was a book from my mom – The Wind in the Willows. This still applied 20 years later in Europe, alone in my tent, snuggled up to a copy of A Woman’s World: Traveler’s Tales.
Reading – the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay.
And what teenage girl of my generation didn’t read Judy Blume’s Forever, Wifey or Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? So, do yourself a favor. Grab a book and settle in. It’s the perfect activity for chilly nights when the days are shorter. Or instill reading in your children. It’s a habit they’ll come back to, even when it seems all they care about is parties and football. I guarantee it.