This week many of us are thinking about how to organize our lives better, and for me that always includes putting a plan in place to track what I’ve read and what I want to read next. The plan usually fails (it’s not my failure, mind you, rather the plan‘s failure). I’ve admired from afar readers who record book titles and authors in well-loved notebooks, but that’s not a method that’s worked for me (I frequently misplace notebooks). Readers who keep track on spreadsheets seem super accomplished, but there’s a disconnect for me from going to a reading experience to the confines of a spreadsheet (cheers to you, spreadsheet trackers!). And, of course, there’s Goodreads (now owned by Amazon) where you can track what you’re reading, see what friends are reading, get ideas for what to read next, and do a public reading challenge. That’s not working for me, either, mainly because there isn’t an easy way to make (or retrieve) private notes if I’m using the Goodreads app on my phone.
Ever since I was a child, at our family gathering that coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday, we would go around the table and everyone would have to say a little something about what they were thankful for. Perhaps it was (or is) the same for you? For our hedonistic childhood selves, so unaccustomed to being thankful for anything, it often felt a bit awkward or forced. Of course now, many of us have come to sense just how empowering and grounding it can be to foster a spirit of gratitude, especially in times of darkness, anxiety and despair. One thing that many of our patrons tell us they’re grateful for, especially as the nights grow long and the days grow cold, is reading.
Let’s be grateful that we live in a world where magic exists – that “uniquely portable magic” that Stephen King likens to telepathy. Magic that calls whole lives and worlds into existence out of scratches on a page or breath. By some distinctly human trickery, we can peer inside another person’s brain, and think another person’s thoughts. What a marvel, to be all but possessed by the mind and soul and experience of another! To be moved to laughter, tears, rage and profound sympathy; to be led to fresh understandings. Continue reading “Thankful for Books”
When people talk about the value they derive from reading, they will often mention how it widens their perspective, allowing them to partake of the lives, thoughts and experiences of others. As Joyce Carol Oates puts it, “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin.” Some studieshave supported the popular view that readers are more empathetic, while others question whether reading makes us kinder, or if kind people just like to read. In any case, readers value literature’s ability to see the world through others’ eyes.
Just as reading allows us to expand into different people and places, it also allows us direct access to the past, which can do wonders for our sense of perspective. Looking back across the centuries, we may come to perceive what Barbara Tuchman called in the title of her best known work, a Distant Mirror, revealing certain patterns and abiding truths, and reassuring us with examples of how others have faced similar challenges and overcome.
Lately I’ve been reading books and articles from a period of time a little over a century ago that came to be known as the Gilded Age, a period of extreme splendor and excess for some, and great disillusionment and outrage for many. Out of the ranks of the latter a new generation of muckraking writers unleashed powerful indictments of this corruption, shining a light on the injustices and inequities of their day. Continue reading “Gifts of Empathy, Outrage, and Perspective”
This book you are now reading is a manifesto of sorts–my manifesto, a manifesto for readers. Because I think we need to read and to be readers now more than ever.
Every January I struggle to decide what I want to read. Do I catch up on what I missed the previous year, or do I read classics I’ve missed? Should I focus on new, enticing books just coming out, or read some topical nonfiction I’ve been putting off? I spend much of the month picking up and putting things down, casting about for the book or author that speaks to my mood. 2017 has created its own special reading vacuum, what with the upheaval in these United States, so I was pleasantly surprised when the book that provided the most balm and sustenance for me right now was a book about reading books. Continue reading “Now More Than Ever, Reading is Power”
During the dark days of winter, few things are as classically cozy as curling up on the couch with a blanket and a good book. If you want to reinforce that winter-y feeling, try reading one of these 10 books that are snowy and cold.