Once upon a time, one of my friends told me that I cannot love books because they can’t love me back. I have been contesting that statement ever since.
Because, first of all, love does not have to be mutual to exist. A lot of heartache and a lot of good literature would never have been made possible if love had to be requited to take place.
As a “young professional” (I prefer to call myself a “baby teacher” – it’s much more fitting to where I am in life), I’ve found that I have free time in the evenings. At first I didn’t know what to do with this – I was so used to studying and living amongst college friends, and that, combined with going to class, took up my time. Finding myself now with a few precious hours of my own was a post-grad surprise.
With this time, I’ve been reunited with my old love, reading: my baby love, my high school sweetheart, the love of my life, all rolled into one. I feel as if fate has had it in store for us my whole life. I was made to ingest words. There has been no honeymoon phase because reading brings me straight goodness and happiness, all the time, forever, amen.
As a result of this jump from so little free time/reading time, to now: lots of it, I’ve been stimulated to thinking about the difference reading has made in my life. One night recently I couldn’t sleep, and I laid in bed considering the multitude of things being a reader has taught me about people and relationships.
There is a difference between reading books and being a reader. Anyone can read books. But a reader pursues books, is always reading something, and maybe even takes books to bars (I do!). Not everyone is a reader, and that is okay, in the same way that not everyone understands calculus. Also okay.
Here is what I have learned about people from being a reader:
- New and best are not the same thing. New is great, but it doesn’t mean “best.” It mostly means that it takes longer to find familiarity. And, if I spill food on a new book, I get more frustrated than I would if the same had happened with an older, more broken-in book. It’s also true for friends: I’m much more careful not to spill food on a new friend than an old one.
- It’s normal to want to own every book I’ve ever read or loved, but it isn’t practical (or financially responsible) to do it. However, I don’t need to have every book close to me in order for it to have an impact on my life. Sometimes a story is just passing through.
- Sometimes, someone I love wants me to love a book. In that situation, I love the book not because I independently love it, but because I love the person. I am committed to those I love: both the people and the books.
- The books I’ve had the longest and love the most are the ones I treat the least carefully. Their spines are cracked and they have spent quality time on the bottom of my purse and I’ve written random notes on their inside covers. I relish them, but instead of expressing it often, I treat them casually. I expect them to stick around, so I treat them as if they will. However, in spite of the familiarity and sometimes flippancy with which I tend to refer to or handle them, they’re my favorites. They’re the ones I love the most. They’re the books I am sure to own and invest in so that they can always be near me.
- “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is sound advice. Some books don’t even have covers. The presentation and/or presence of a cover is not indicative of the value of the words inside the book.
- All books are worthy of respect, on the principle that they are books and that they exist. However, that doesn’t mean every book needs to be my favorite. I don’t have to read every book just because it’s a book (also that’s not possible). Limits exist, and that’s reasonable, but being biased or judgmental isn’t.
- Some people read books a lot faster than others. Some people understand books a lot better than others. Some people value books more readily than others.
- Some people read deeply when what was written should be taken at face value, and some people take words at face value when they should be taken deeply.
- If I read only one genre, I’ll only know about one genre. I’ll be a much more diverse, well-spoken, and educated person if I read lots of different books about lots of different things.
- Books are written with a target audience, but the reader gets to choose what age-level books he or she reads. I can read children’s books or teen books or grown-up books (or no books at all). I’m not mandated to read the books corresponding to the age that I am.
I like this quote by Maud Casey where she says, “I was born with a reading list I will never finish.” I think that this applies both to my life in literature, and to my life with people. I want to always be on the market for new friends. As a baby teacher and a baby grown-up and a new person in a big town, I need to remind myself of this often: make lots of new friends and love the ones you have and always welcome more.
If you think about it, reading is an (anti)social skill. “Anti” because reading is done alone, and social because what a reader learns through reading enhances socialization. What fun irony!
Who knew when we were learning our letter sounds that this skill would affect more than our academic careers? Who could have predicted that reading would increase not only our IQs, but also our relational abilities and our abilities to love those around us?