Tag Archives: joy of reading

Libraricating

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage  and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?” Annie Dillard

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.With the explosion of social media and technology, we are reading all the time. And that is a good thing! Attached to our screens we are processing and interacting like never before. We love the little “ping” our brains get when we have new information, either in a tweet, an email, or with a piece of breaking news.

Books are brain foodBut what about the type of reading that has more depth, something sustained, something more than a snatch or a byte… something that we can become absorbed in, lost in. Our brains need that kind of deep engaging as well.

I know… I am probably preaching to the choir but I think we readers need to remind ourselves that what we are doing is really very, very good. It doesn’t matter if we prefer the printed page or a Kindle screen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a work of non-fiction, an essay, a short story, or a magazine article.

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we areUninterrupted sustained reading may seem like a gift if we can manage it, but actually it is vital to our health. Reading stimulates the brain, reduces stress, expands vocabulary, improves writing skills, sharpens memory, and causes stronger analytical thinking.

What is libraricating? Getting something from the library (or bookstore) that will lubricate your brain! 🙂

The Trouble with Book Awards

Book AwardThe single most important thing about the love of reading, is finding the types of books that YOU like to read. Not what someone else likes and has recommended to you, not what has won an award, not what is prominently displayed in a bookstore, or even what has been on the bestseller lists. This is especially true for children, teens, and reluctant readers of all ages. It is quite simple. For reading to be a pleasure, it must be a book that you enjoy!

The trouble with books that win awards, is that we tend to suddenly think that we should enjoy the book, simply because it has won an award, without first considering if it is the type of book that we would naturally gravitate towards. I think we assume that because a book has won an award and is seen on display everywhere that it is a good book, and it probably is, but the important question that you still need to ask is “Is this book good for me?”

Authors whose books win awards, do sell more copies, and for that reason winners become good for booksellers and publishers to promote. Therefore, they are prominently displayed because it is good for business. It does not mean that you will necessarily like it, just because there have been a million copies sold.

Reader's Bill of Rights 1Readers have rights. You’ve probably seen various versions of them on bookmarks or posters. Here are a couple of examples.

Readers' Bill of Rights 2

Here is my own advice on how to get the most enjoyment out of reading:

1. Find what you like to read, and do not be too much swayed by what others recommend, unless you know from experience that you like the same type of books as someone else. Do not be sucked in by marketing on websites or bookstore displays.

2. Don’t feel like you have to finish a book if you are not enjoying it. By all means, give it 50 pages, but if it has not grabbed you by then, give it up. If you are determined to read it anyway, try it at another time when you might approach it differently, like on a vacation.

3. If you want to challenge yourself to read more widely and step outside of your usual reading box, go ahead and try a different genre or author than you normally read. In that case an award winner might be a good place to start.  Try a biography or a fantasy or a thriller for a change. You may be surprised to be hooked! But if not, apply # 2 and move on. And don’t be afraid to read a teen or children’s book if you are an adult. Some of the best books I’ve read are written for young adults. Classifications are tricky and often a book will fit in more than one genre. Even though we’ve been told not to, we do judge books by their covers, but don’t assume a book is chick lit just because the cover has high heels on it.

4. Use reviews, book lists, articles about books, and blurbs on Amazon and Chapters to help you decide if you might like something. There are even websites like Goodreads that can help with this. Enjoying a book is a curious combination of writing style, story topic, word usage, humour, suspense, and the author’s ability to draw you in. You are unique and so are your choices in reading. You have a right to love it or leave it!

Happy New Year!

BooksThank you!! Thank you!! 

Just wanted to begin the New Year by thanking my blog followers. You are such a delight to me. I love your comments, your suggestions, and your encouragement, and just knowing  that you are there enjoying books!

You are my friends, even though I have not even met you all!

Instant Friend

Next to my love for reading is my love for quotes. When I worked in a school library I would display a new quote on a whiteboard everyday. It was such fun to find the really, really good ones and share them. Quotes provoke discussion and reflection which is also exactly what reading does.

If I were to write my own quote about reading it would be this:

The good books will always still be there.

Reading List“Book pile angst” is something all avid readers suffer from, myself included. We want to have read it all, or be ready to read it all. We order way more titles from the library than we can actually get through before they have to be returned. We have books sitting on our bookshelves that we have not read yet. We hear of new books we want to read and make lists. We check out online book lists and keep an eye on what’s coming out soon from Amazon. One friend said she feared dying in her sleep if her rather tall bedside book pile ever fell over on her in the middle of the night!

My challenge to myself and to you for this New Year is to enjoy books without angst or guilt. Ignore this common question and have the courage to not apologize when you hear it: “What? You haven’t read that yet?”  Read books, revel in them, and don’t worry so much about what you have missed or what is still waiting in the wings. Live in the moment and enjoy the book you have in your hands right now. You will never be able to read everything. Be worry free and blessed by what you have read and are reading, and let the rest go. It’s simple. Just enjoy another year with books!

‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon ReaderstarstarstarI discovered this wicked little gem on a table display in the library labelled “Feel Good Reads”. It is a comedic fantasy and looked like it would be fun, but I found it to be much more than that.

At just over 100 pages, despite its brevity, it is a witty and weighty multi-layered meditation on the pleasures of reading and an inside glimpse of the monarchy into the bargain. But not tabloid style. Bennett is a genius at weaving in observations of the subtleties of class and style. He also likes big words and is somewhat of a sesquipedalian. Cosy up to Merriam-Webster for this one folks! I loved the word opsimath: one who learns only late in life.

The novella’s main character is the Queen and, although she no doubt reads a lot, here she discovers how delightful it can be to read avidly, compulsively and voraciously from a wide variety of literature and novels. She is one who should be ‘entitled’, but those near her are worried and stumped about her seemingly subversive addiction and think she is suffering from dementia!

The sweet little story begins when the Queen is walking her Corgis and stumbles upon a ‘mobile library’ near the palace kitchens, ends up with a book in her hands, and accidentally drifts into reading.  There is a hilarious scene at the beginning where she learns to read and wave at the same time while sitting in the coach being brought to the opening of parliament!

It would seem remiss if I took no umbrage at Bennett’s remarks about how he doesn’t consider Canada to be bookish, despite a cameo appearance by Alice Munro. Obviously he has never listened to CBC or tuned in to ‘Canada Reads’ since I would rank Canadians very high on the ‘avid reader’ scale. Is there even such a thing? Incidentally, the title plays with the word common. ‘Common reader’ being someone who reads for pleasure as opposed to a critic or scholar, and a ‘commoner’ in England referring  to anyone who is not nobility or royalty.

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Bennett’s portrayal of the Queen does her justice and suggests she is intelligent, philosophical, and cares about things. She is an amazing woman and I have a great deal of respect for her. Since the Queen lives next door I’ve included a picture I took of her at Windsor Castle. How very common of me! 🙂