In Defense of Reading

 

IMG_1923Dear Writer,

I’m breaking up with you.

I apologize…it’s not you. It’s me.

I know you stay up late, typing your fingers raw, crafting your rich characters and your clever tales. But you’re smothering me. There were 1,000,000 new books published just last year.

And yes, I must confess: there’s someone else. His name is [Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Twitter, insert-media-of-choice].

Sincerely,

Your Reader

 

Where did all the readers go?

Back before I had kids, the soul-sucking corporate job and the internet handily attached to the end of my right arm, I’d sometimes read book a day. These days, I’m lucky to finish one in a month.

And while I complain that I’m busy, when those open gaps of time come, what do I do? Lately it’s devour episodes of Treme off Netflix like fine chocolate with a cup of Thirty-thirty. And before Treme, it was Black Mirror and True Detective and Breaking Bad. And I don’t have to tell you mid-century Mad Men what I’m up to on Sunday nights.

What the heck. I apologize, dear writer. Here you are staying up nights, polishing your prose, and I’m too strung out on Tivo to charge my Kindle.

Readers before writers

Serial television has enjoyed a renaissance of late. But ultimately, its franchise food, assembled by the entertainment industry. While it might not be charbroiled pink slime, it’s still processed food when our minds crave more raw and leafy things to digest. We grow lazy on easy entertainment.

Books are built with words, the fundamental blocks of stories, but they require our imagination to digest them. Books aren’t prepackaged fare—well generally not. They demand an active ingredient: the reader.

A resolution to read

stack of books

By ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

And so, with this post, I do hereby solemnly swear, from this day forward to cast aside my Netflix marathons and return to you, esteemed writer. I beseech you to thrill me. But first you must tell me how to find you.

Because with 1,000,000 new offerings just in the past year, I daresay it’s hard to find you.

There are wonderful amazing life-changing works being published. But how to find them? Everything, everything, everything has a  4-star review on Amazon. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad? Four stars, 250 reviews. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer? Four stars, 6789 reviews. What to read, what to read?

It’s all so overwhelming, and when the pursuit so often ends in disappointment, the temptation is to drift into the den, hook up my Netflix IV drip and worry about it later.

So tell me: What do I read?

Seriously, dear writer. this is me, your devoted reader, appealing to you:

What shall I read? What has stirred you? What have you read lately that reached into your soul? What stayed with you, long after the book was gathering dust on the shelf?

I want a book so vivid that when I put it down, the world is black and white. I want lines that haunt me for decades, characters that feel like dear friends forever-missed, a story so compelling I want to call all my buddies and say: do you know about this one?

So tell me, my writerly friends, what shall I read?

In the comments below, tell me the best book you’ve read this year and why it touched you. Doesn’t matter if it’s indie or traditionally published, longstanding classic or unsung masterpiece. No judgment here, no bias to genre.

Tell me, tell the world: what to read.

Oh, and cancel that Netflix membership and join me in the Readolution.

9 Comments

  1. Splendid and thoughtful as always. I really like how you put things, too. Well done.

  2. This was a lovely thought. Ecology? try “Zodiac” by Neil Stephenson. Childhood? try “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell. Thoughts on why you have internet glued to the end of your arm? I was blown away by “The cybergypsies” by Indra Sinha, but this one doesn’t always win hearts.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I will have to check those out!

  3. An excellent question & one that plagued me – how do I choose books when ‘ratings’ are so subjective and average out to 3.8 for every book over time? I have two methods:
    – random chance
    – trusted book bloggers.

    Random chance is not entirely random, true – I choose based on cool covers, patriotism (I spent a month only reading Australian Authors), free books I seem to have won on occasion, recommendations. But many of these books are simply ‘right place/right time’ and that seems to have worked out for me.

    More important are my increasing sources of Trusted Book Bloggers – people who read closely and put careful analysis behind their reviews. These people can convince me to read books they love – and oddly books they hate, as I check out these hated tomes to see if I feel the same.

    Great post.
    Cheers
    KT

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I like your approach about sometimes choosing the books the reviewers hate. I do agree that the right books often find us at the right time. Great how that works out.

  4. “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton is quite good. I’m more into “pulp urban gothic vampires and witches” but I’ve nearly finished The Miniaturist (which has no vampires in it) and it’s very readable. I expect people who love books without vampires in would reckon it’s amazing 🙂

    1. I will have to check it out!

  5. I always turn to classics I’ve left unread, sometimes with delight and sometimes with the realization of why I never finished the book. The best new thing I read was Fourth of July Creek, a stellar first novel. Also reading TC Boyle’s The Harder They Come, but not very far into it. Frederick Busch’s The Night Inspector is great, too.

    1. Thanks J Hardy, I will definitely check those out.

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