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Monday On My Mind

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

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.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Great post today! Applicable to kids’ reading, too, I think – let them read anything they like; they’ll grow into “better” books eventually.

  2. Great advice, Carole! I read almost everything. Now that I think about that, I have never read a graphic novel, so I should probably do that sometime. When I was growing up, they were called comic books, so I need to see if my disdain for them is deserved or if they have evolved into something else. I am all about the recommendations as well, and your idea for a book club sounds perfect!

  3. All.of.this! YES YES YES YES! Life without reading would just be so blah! Read what you love! Best advice ever!

  4. Amen to all of this! I read because it brings me joy, period. I like to read a variety of things because I like to learn new things and get different perspectives on life and the world. Sometimes I want a challenge and I want to think about difficult things when I read; sometimes I just want escapism. I am so thankful for the library, in particular, for making it possible to have so many books at my fingertips at any given moment.

  5. Yes! I love the challenge that Book Bingo presents for me but I love cheeseburgers and French fries a lot!

  6. And I’m cheering you for this post encouraging ALL reading. I was one of those kids that read the cereal box (because I wasn’t supposed to be reading a book at the table) and read under the covers at night with a flashlight. As a grown-up, I read what I want, (almost) whenever I want, and it is the ultimate form of self-care.

  7. Such good advice, Carole! I read a variety of books because I’m curious about a lot of things in this world. I read to learn new things, to see the world from a different point of view, for escape, and just for the joy of it. I look forward to Summer Book Bingo and enjoy choosing books from my TBR list to fill in the squares.

  8. I have always been a reader although there have been times when reading took a back seat. The last few years, I have really enjoyed the connections I have formed with other readers through online activities like book bingo. This year I have had so much fun looking the my card and my shelf and finding ways to match things up. And I do believe the book I am reading right now will fit into one of those squares. So happy to have your company along the way.

  9. BRAVO for a great post, Carole! Reading for pleasure should be just that — reading for pleasure. . . however we may choose to categorize, analyze, and record – or not (!) – our experience. I’ll be cheering you on as you go for your Bingo cover-all! XO

  10. Last year it was easy to read and read and read. What else was there to do? I covered 3 Bingo cards without much effort by the end of the summer (plus we started in April). But, this year won’t be quite as leisurely. I hope to get a couple of Bingos but I’m not going to worry about anything else. All the categories are really great and should be fun to fulfill. Your post is a good reminder that we are in charge of our reading!

  11. Interesting! The only book club I’m in also gets together and discusses books that each of us is reading. I get a lot of great recommendations from them.We are all “well-read”, whatever that is, and have very wide interests, so it has broadened my reading horizon.

  12. Awesome post! I worked in adult literacy for many years, and being able to read is so important. It’s very crucial for children to see their parents reading! Thanks for the book bingo links; it’s a nice challenge!

  13. yes, Yes, YES!! “But, to use a food analogy, books don’t all have to be filet mignon, sometimes you need a cheeseburger and fries.” … I like to think of summer reading as ice cream and a special bottle of wine … things I do for fun, and things maybe I’ve been saving up for a while and will MAKE the time and space for in this season. (and now that I’ve typed that, I like that analogy and maybe I’ll use that in my Friday post to kick off Bingo!) (on another note, I started Shuggie Bain on Saturday – I’m listening – and I totally planned to have this be a Bingo finish, and I’ll be shocked if I don’t finish it before this Saturday …)

  14. My little 3 year old great niece enjoys being read to and I try to get her at least one book for her Birthday and other holidays.

    I created a spreadsheet of options for book bingo this year. I hope to get one bingo as I may get distracted by other books. I did do the create your own card this year and am trying to use books I own so that I can then donate them to a used bookstore a town over from me.

    I’m glad we can start the first book early as I picked a lot of 350 plus pages books. I’m reading Life after Life right now and hope to finish it Sunday.

    Can’t wait to see what books you read.

  15. I”m on a Young Adult year of reading. It was just the thing I needed when it was hard to pay attention. I’ve read Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, Charles and the Chocolate Factory and I just read the first 5 Cherry Ames books – all off my shelves and it makes me happy. I agree… read what makes you read.

  16. Ok… so, your post made me want to recommend a book. You can decide if it’s a cheeseburger, or a filet Mignon, or, even a Filet disguised as a Burger:

    The Boy, the mole , the fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

    or… maybe you’ve already eaten. ~grin

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