I was going to write a nice light-hearted column about how seasons changing segues not only into shifting your wardrobe, but also your book choices.
However, today has been a particularly virtriol-ous day on social media and it made me realize that now, more than ever, the need for literature isn’t just a life choice — it’s a necessity.
It all started with the news… We all like to keep on top of the news, and no one knows better than I do how journalism focuses more on the bad than the good. Contrary to popular beliefs, it’s not to sell papers or increase ad revenue. It’s to inform, to prevent, to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.
But what happens when that infant, Social Media, is thrown into the journalism mix, stumbling about walking on shaking newborn legs? Like a kid in the candy store, it has stuffed our faces with bittersweet stories and, like a sugar addict, we find it harder and harder to log off and just say no.
And then there’s the post comments… While Facebook was created to bring people together, it has become Frankenstein’s Monster, taking on a life of its own that frequently stomps all over our best-laid plans to keep in touch with family or share funny cat videos. The hatred of trolls and even innocent people who are just fed up and blowing off steam has run amok, and now more than ever we need a reprieve from the ire.
That’s it … I give up! We need to escape the hate and dive into another world where the plucky young heroine fights the good fight or the shy baker creates a magical cake that brings together lost loves.
We can now safely say it’s not a bad thing to have your nose buried in a book. Believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago when parents worried that reading too much would make their kid incapable of coping with reality.
I now know parents who long for their children to choose a book over having them plastered to an LCD screen. The truth is it’s the fantasy that makes reality endurable. It inspires, it enlightens, it uplifts.
When the world feels like it’s closing in and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the best thing you can do is look to another story to give you hope.
Drowning in debt and can’t pass up that fabulous pair of Manolo Blahniks? Try the Shopaholic series. Dating scene seems more like the hating scene? Read pretty much anything by Rachel Gibson. Frustrated with the male of the species and ready to trade it in for man’s best friend? You’ve gotta read “Dogs and Goddesses” by Jennifer Crusie then.
Want to leave our reality all together? Honestly, there are so many great fantasy/sci-fi books out there that I’m hard-pressed just to name just one.
I get that not everyone is a reader. But you have to find a way of tuning out for at least 20 minutes a day just to keep your head from exploding.
Still intimidated? Well then, forget every rule you’ve ever thought applied to reading, and follow these simple anti-rules:
1. You DON’T have to read what everyone else is reading. Would you jump off that bridge too?
2. You DON’T have to read something meaningful and heartfelt. You do you! If doing you means romantic comedies and cozy mysteries, go for it.
3. You DON’T have to go by reviews. Read the first page and if it doesn’t have you intrigued, chuck it and move on. Your time is valuable!
4. You CAN judge a book by its cover. Cover artists put a lot of time and effort into it so you can do just that!
5. You DON’T have to finish what you started. If the book peters out after two chapters and becomes predictable, move on to the next one. As I said, your time is valuable!
6. You DON’T have to read a novel at all! *gasp!* Try poetry, try short stories, pick up an art book and just look at the pictures. For the past decade plus our brains have been systematically trained to take in information at short bursts, it’s no wonder they can’t focus for extended periods. Baby step it back to lengthy reads with something short. I won’t judge.
7. And finally but most importantly, you do it for you. Your happiness starts within, not without for the sake of post likes or retweets. Do it and keep it to yourself like a sweet secret indulgence, that sinful bite of chocolate that no one needs to know about.
And isn’t it lovely that it’s actually good for you.
Kat McKay is the manager of the Clinton-Massie Branch of the Wilmington Public Library in Clarksville. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.