How to Fall In Love with Reading

I love to read. I love it more than writing. I’ve been at it longer and have had, you could say, better success with it.

My mom is a reader and took my sisters and me to the library often. We fed the ducks, sometimes went to storytime, but mostly browsed around the stacks while my mom picked out books for herself. I was encouraged to roam the library freely, step out of my age-group of books and pick up whatever I like. I read everything from X-men comics to how-to books, the psychology of dreams to Grimm’s fairytales.

I think that is mostly how you raise a child to love reading—let them see you reading, let them read freely. Take them to the library, read to them, have books all around your house. But not everyone grew up with that and sometimes people have to learn to love reading.

That’s ok—its not like gymnastics or long-distance running, you can really pick it up at any age and grow a wild passion for it quickly.

Some common misconceptions with reading are that it is only for nerds, that it is boring, that it is obsolete in our fast-paced technology saturated existence.

I am, yes, very much a nerd, but I know plenty of cool people, so cool that I don’t Personally know them but mostly know Of them, that read and even write. If you find the right book, reading it will not be boring. And reading is not only not only still relevant, it is even more necessary in our culture of ever-shortening attention spans and little value in the lasting.

 I won’t go into the scientific data on the benefits of reading, though there is such data out there on how it benefits both mind and body (and, I’d argue, soul), but I will tell you this—a good book can be a passport, a mirror, your mother’s voice, your father’s ghost, it can take you far away and bring you further in. 

When you read a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, you are taking part in the perspective and way of telling of another unique human being, a particular perspective never before or never since offered again. It is never too late to take part of this—and I hope you will.

 How To Take A Book In Hand: 

1. Find a Book Through Recommendations 
Start by asking friends/family/the world at large (Facebook. Twitter.) what was the most influential or best book that they’ve ever read. You might not get a great many replies, but it is a way to get you started. Try out some of these suggestions. If you don’t know any readers, sign up for sites like Goodreads or Librarything. There are user-created best-of lists for many genres, and also reading groups that could recommend books for you. If all else fails, check out school reading lists—there are often more than a few gems to be found there.

2. Find a Book Through Browsing the Stacks 
What I love most about libraries is the joy of discovery (and that they are free. And interlibrary loan
too, marvelous.). Most libraries have popular new books near the front center, the circulation desk. My local library has it divided up into genres. I drive my daughter crazy with my last minute browsing in the check-out aisle! So if you aren’t sure what you want to read or what you would like reading, start there. Pick up anything that slightly catches your attention—whether it’s the cover, a well-known author, the topic, the clever title. Libraries are FREE—there’s no risk here, unless you lose the books and rack up a fine.

And, if you grow braver, venture out into the stacks. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m in the stacks. Perhaps, adventurous reader, start with a topic you are interested in (let’s say you are a mom—maybe you are interested in parenting books. Maybe you love decorating—check out the design section). Once you are in that section, you can experience the great value of a library—being able to find books you would have never been recommended or known to look for and being able to try that book out for free.

 3. Don’t Waste Time on Books You Hate 
If you hate a book by the end of the first chapter, don’t finish it. There’s nothing wrong with not finishing a book if you don’t like it—this isn’t school, no one is requiring you to read this. Not to say that there aren’t a great many books that are fantastic once you get past the first chapter—there are!—but if you are just starting out with learning to love reading, don’t force yourself to slog through a book just because you checked it out from the library or a cute girl you like recommended it to you. Put it down—there are plenty other books in the sea.

 4. Be Fearless 
This is no time for timidity—if you want to read a book about rocket science, go for it. If you want to read poems by Jewel, no judgment here. You are ultimately the one sitting down with the book—it doesn’t have to be a book that people would expect you to read. This isn’t about impressing people—its about enriching your own mind. So read what you want to read—read widely and boldly.

As you see, learning to love reading is not a difficult skill to accomplish. And you’ll find that the more that you read, the more you develop your taste in books and the faster your reading becomes. Happy reading!

“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

oh the world owes me a lemon…

we got rid of internet/tv a couple weeks ago to help with our budget, and it is possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. Suddenly, I have all these tiny pockets of time that I wasn’t aware of—that likely got sucked up by social media or email or whatnot—and in them I’ve instead put reading and writing (but no arithmetic). We don’t have smartphones either—we are really amish-ing it up over here. we do go to the public library for books and movies, and I use internet at work sometimes. 
i don’t use the internet at the public library though because, aside from our really fantastic children’s section (complete with miniature, child-sized doors next to the larger, mommy-sized doors), our library is the creepiest library I have ever been in. not the building—the people. the building is up on a little hill overlooking the river, between downtown and the park. when the river floods, which often happens in the spring, the water creeps into the parking lot and our trail from the library to the park is overwhelmed with muddy river water.

there is no good way into the library–just a steep double set of stairs or an inclined roundabout path–not too inconvenient, unless you’re eight months pregnant and carrying a two year old because we’re late for storytime and it takes two years olds an awfully long time to safely climb stairs. florescent lighting, the check out front and center and isolated narrow paths past the often-read magazines into the less-read bookstacks, when you first enter. i rarely dig deeply into the bookstacks since poetry is only middle-deep from the center, and the audio-visual side is for computers, dvds, cds. upstairs is lined with local art–some bad, some good–and books even less frequented than what they have downstairs.

I never noticed the creepiness before because it isn’t in a bad area of town, and zu and I always made a bee-line for the cute children’s section for story-time and puppets. now that I’m browsing around a bit more, I can’t stand to be there more than just to grab what I need.  I think it is mostly because there are lots of men loitering about. I just get that feeling—that be-on-alert feeling. Maybe it’s the way they look at us? I don’t know exactly—it makes me look over my shoulder to make sure I’m not followed out to my car… and I also carry a knife in my purse so I can stab someone if they attack me. So, don’t get any ideas y’all. 
back to the topic at hand…after braving the library, I finally finished bossypants by tina fey last week (the chapter on motherhood is the best so read that if you are just going to read one chapter) and I’m reading the journals of Sylvia Plath right now (it is my rocking-june-to-sleep book. Sometimes it takes so long that I pick up a book and read a bit). I’m also reading through the southern poetry anthology, Tennessee volume, and I think it is my favorite poetry anthology that I’ve ever read—I know so many writers personally who are published in it (I’m in there too, but I wish my poem was better), and it is so good and it is so close to my tennessee born-and-bred heart.  
Zu has been watching old cartoons—like mickey mouse short-cartoons. Why are there so many drinking and drunkenness scenes in old cartoons? And why is goofy’s theme song “oh the world owes me a lemon…”?  June has been neither watching anything or reading anything from the library. She does however like to try to eat our personal books, when I’m reading to the girls with them both in my lap. 
i miss having internet on some days, since I can start to feel a little disconnected from the world, though for the most part I think this has been a really good thing. being disconnected is nice. It’s the reason I never have gotten a smartphone—maybe I’m a luddite at heart (I write, as I type this on my laptop… to later post on my blog…)

dinner in the bookstacks

around 6pm every evening, in old wing of the library, F – H section of the periodicals, the weeknight scent of chicken-n-dumplins, homemade spaghetti, or maybe leftover chili meanders along the dusty stacks of magazines and literary journals.

bryan works every evening at the library, at the center checkout desk, managing student workers, answering questions, but mostly vigilantly keeping the library from nighttime strangeness (and he does have stories–libraries become very strange at night–or at least the people that visit them at night are strange).

this semester we’ve made it a family habit for me to put dinner in tupperware and head up to campus, girls in tow, for dinner as a family in the bookstacks. there’s a little table close to his desk, nestled between shelves. zu sits in her own chair, propped up tall enough with the help of a few legal volumes no one (we assume) ever reads.

this has been sweet family time for us. sometimes we do get a few puzzled glances from the occasional student passing by, but we’ve just been doing our own thing with our family schedule and dinner in the bookstacks is what works for us.

as we’ve grown as a family, we tend to make-do, and in the making-do find our own happy way of things. i love gathering around the table together, even if it means a little bit of dishwashing in the library breakroom (where they use a cardcatalog to store coffee filters and silverware) or letting a little blonde two year old run and giggle through the quiet and stodgy library.

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
– Mark Twain