Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The day has become “Read Across America Day,” and the entire month of March is National Reading Month, so it’s a great time to discuss the joy of books.
Books are something that’s always given me joy. My mother made sure I had a library card before I could read and I was encouraged to use the library often. (I still do – and modern libraries do SO MUCH MORE than “just” loan out books! Click here for some of the cool things libraries lend – my local one has cake pans, for instance.) I have fond memories of being read to at night when I was tiny. Later, my mother had me read out loud to her – I learned how to read dialect from Br’er Rabbit tales. I have a love-hate relationship with e-readers. I adore the convenience, but there’s something about paper and sense memory for me.
I go through phases with genres – I find Agatha Christie mysteries oddly comforting. I think it’s the old-fashioned details of English village life in the Miss Marples that really get me. (Poirot is great, but Miss Marple is my go-to. Although I’ve just discovered Harley Quin, who was Christie’s personal favorite – those have a strange other-worldly tinge to them.) I have a carefully-curated shelf of French lifestyle books that I return to often when I need a reminder that whirling frantically in a frenzy of multitasking doesn’t actually accomplish more and being frazzled is far from being chic. I have cookbooks I adore. I have favorites that I go back to over and over. I’m still working my way through the Nancy Drew series, having missed it as a child. and I have a “to be read” list that I’ll probably never get all the way through (and yes, it includes some of the Big Names that I just never got around to reading in school or out).
When it comes to books, my philosophy is simple and can be summed up in four simple rules.
- Read what gives you joy.
- If someone else pooh-poohs your choices, ignore the naysayers. (Seriously. I’m a “woman of a certain age” reading Nancy Drew. My life, my time, my choices.)
- If you read a classic that you just don’t like, trust your feelings. (Mine is Wuthering Heights, which I just HATED! There’s not a likable character in that entire novel.)
- And – this is the tough one for me – if you get partway in to a book and it just isn’t grabbing your attention, it’s okay to put it down.
Just read. You’ll sort the good stuff from the dreck easily enough. (By the way, don’t dismiss all the dreck, all the time. Sometimes you need a good brain palate-cleanser and that can be a trashy romance or a pulp noir novel.) Learn about faraway cultures. Discover the stories of amazing women you never knew existed. Explore different time periods and genres – biography, steampunk, science fiction, Edwardian, the Wild West. Look for familiar stories told from different points of view to expand your own mind by taking in perspectives you don’t know about.
Just read, Divas. It’s a wonderful way to seek joy.