Love to Read? Why the Newest Best Thing Is Actually an Old Best Thing
The television screen shows a young couple, strolling down a city street, holding hands. When they arrive at the steps of the woman’s brownstone, the man hesitates as if he wants to move in for a kiss.
The woman looks deeply into his eyes, plants one on his cheek and whispers into his ear: “I’d invite you up, but my Book of the Month Club book arrived today.” Then she skips up the steps, leaving the man looking slightly dazed.
Did I really just see that? In these heavily digitized times, fraught with instant information, Book of the Month is advertising on television? Be still my heart. How fabulous and fantastic.
Let’s make reading a thing. Let’s have it trend. Let’s all drop our cell phones in a basket at the door and stretch out on the couch with a cup of tea, and read. Yes! Yes! Yes!
I’ll bet you remember books in your house. My mom was a member of the Book of the Month Club, and she signed us up for similar mailings.
When I was in the fourth grade, we got a book on a different country each month. The series was published by Life Magazine and the books were filled with wonderful color pictures of places I dreamed about visiting one day.
And then there were the Reader’s Digest Condensed novels – and I do mean condensed. But my mom enjoyed being able to stay up on so many books. If she liked one of the condensed versions, she’d buy the original book and read the whole thing.
Books as Décor
My house was filled with books when I was growing up. I still believe that you can’t really have a home without books, plants and a cat, though I later expanded that to include dogs as well.
Childhood Sundays were a time when we had pancakes for breakfast, often staying in our jammies, retreating to our corners and reading a book. There is something comforting and welcoming about books on shelves and books that beckon from end tables and bedsides.
Quiet and Thoughtful
When I read, my heart and head were opened to new ideas. Reading helped me learn to think about things. Reading was a way to get quiet and go into one’s self, to contemplate the world around you through various points of view.
When I saw that commercial, I started to reflect upon those days. They were thoughtful times, and I felt a longing to go back to them.
Our world is crazy loud with instantaneous information. News comes at you at such a force, that it’s impossible to process, reflect or integrate much of anything.
Being plugged into instant streaming, phones and computers 24/7 has caused a cultural lurching from sound bite to sound bite, and it’s enough to make your head hurt. The solution has been there all along: unplug and read. Get quiet and breathe deeply.
The Upside of Technology
I just learned about an app called Libby. It’s free. I don’t know if it’s national, international or local, because like a lot of people my age I am technologically challenged. That being said, there is probably something like it in your area.
Libby is an app which prompts you to find your local library and asks you to enter your library card number. Now you have thousands of books on your phone as well as audio books which you can ‘check out’ for a couple of weeks at a time. I usually have my phone with me, so I am never without a book.
I so loved that Book of the Month commercial. It’s great news for a writer like me who aspires to traditional publishing. More, it speaks to a shift in the cultural consciousness that wants to read again.
One of my great joys and privileges in life is serving as the Director of Youth Programming for a statewide organization called Willamette Writers. I often have the opportunity to be in classrooms and workshops with kids from 13 to 18. They are the best read, most curious group of individuals that I know.
They are the future of writing. And they are embracing reading, making YA (young adult) fiction the number one genre in publishing today. I’m hopeful that this generation will be a thinking generation, based on a world of books. As you know, a good story can change the way you see the world.
Did you grow up in a family that subscribed to Book of the Month or another type of service? Did your family emphasize reading and libraries? Please share your experience with us in the comments section.
Stephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.