I want to talk to you today about reading. As a librarian and avid reader, it’s a favorite subject of mine. And I’ve got a lot to say, apparently!
I believe that reading books is the single best thing we can do for ourselves. Books can educate us, whether they are made up stories or true. Books can take us places we’ve never been, with our imaginations but also with illustrations. Books can help us understand ourselves and others, as we read about characters we relate to or who remind us of someone we know. For me, and maybe for you, too, reading is the ultimate form of self-care. And for that reason, I read whatever I want. I don’t follow rules or join challenges or make lists. I don’t belong to a book club (except for Read With Us and that’s only 4 books/year). I should say, at one point I did have a book club but it was very unconventional in that we did not read the same book but rather, we spent our meetings telling each other about great books we had read that we would recommend. I am so about the book recommendations and I totally designed this book club to serve myself!
I don’t quantify the things I read as harder or better and I don’t see reading as a competition. Maybe you do and maybe that’s what motivates you to read . . . to challenge yourself to read a difficult subject or to read a classic or an extra long book. That’s awesome. But I’m also pretty sure there are people out there who are completely put off by that sort of thing. By the online challenges and intense reading communities. By the high brow recommendations and the pressure to read a gazillion books in a year. And I worry that those people aren’t reading at all because they think they aren’t reading books that are good enough. That if it wasn’t nominated for an award it doesn’t count. That if it’s not going to make them stretch their thinking or expand their horizons that someone will judge them for their choice.
To those people, and all the others I say: just read. That’s what I do. I just.read.
I read things that I see my friends reading. I read things that are recommended to me. I read best sellers and books that are considered obscure. I read important prize winners and I read cozy mysteries and romances, family dramas and historical fiction, biographies and memoirs. I read what I like . . . and I like a lot! This isn’t to say that I don’t read books that challenge me. I love a book that makes me think about things in a new way or a book that takes an unconventional approach to telling a story. I read because I want to learn something or experience something and sometimes I want that to stretch my mind. But, to use a food analogy, books don’t all have to be filet mignon, sometimes you need a cheeseburger and fries.
The reason I’m bringing this up right now is because Summer Book Bingo starts this weekend. The book you are currently reading could, potentially, be your first Bingo square, in fact. I love Summer Book Bingo and I so appreciate all of the work Mary puts into setting it up for us. I love having interesting squares on my Bingo card and I really enjoy the challenge of finding books that match up with those squares. More often than not those books are already on my to-read list on GoodReads and I see Summer Book Bingo as a way of getting around to reading books I’ve been meaning to read forever but haven’t yet.
I’ll admit that I do get a bit competitive when it comes to Summer Book Bingo and I’ll be striving for a cover-all again this year. Maybe you have that goal, too. Or maybe you just want one Bingo. Or maybe you don’t give a fig about Bingo. Guess what? It’s all good. You don’t have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and consider your reading life. You don’t have to read better books (better than what? and who decides?) You don’t have to read with any intention other than the intention of reading. Turning a page. Absorbing the words. Fitting them into your life and perhaps expanding your world view or maybe just having a few hours of well earned entertainment.
If you want to fill out those questionnaires and be very mindful of what you’re reading and why you’re reading it . . . go for it. And if you want to plan out your entire summer of reading right now so that you get a Bingo cover all . . . go for it. And if you want to go to the library each week and see what strikes your fancy . . . go for that, too. When it comes to reading, you do you.
I’ll be right here. Reading. And cheering you on.