There is nothing more powerful than a book. The ability to move you from one state of reality and into another without pharmaceutical help is a wondrous thing. And there are so many out there, waiting to be discovered. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, collected works…even if it’s out of your wheelhouse, it should at least be on the boat.
I understand not everybody reads, and mores the shame, so maybe for this first go-round share it only with folks who would at least appreciate the idea. Giving a non-reader a book can be awkward; sometimes they take it as a judgment. It’s not, it shouldn’t be, and with all traditions you should do your damnedest to make it fun, not a chore. And maybe someday (with enough time, patience and the proper PR machine) folks will WANT to read.
Regardless, this Saturday, stop by your local independent bookseller (new or used) and give someone a book. (And a flower, if you want to be orthodox about the whole process. Reformed can get away with a card with a flower on it. Lapsed just give the book.) Maybe something you know the recipient has been talking about or an author you enjoy. Maybe something neither of you have read. Maybe a graphic novel. It can be whatever. If they don’t like it, fine. It’s not a big deal.
The idea isn’t to force people to read.
The idea is to share books.
The idea is to celebrate.
Earlier today Maureen Johnson was advocating people being/becoming Ambassadors of Reading, which is, quite frankly, brilliant. And, if you feel like adding an extra feel-good holiday to your schedule, this is the perfect opportunity.
I handed out a bunch of books last year. Some didn’t care, but the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. My mom, never one for the printed word, has since begun devouring Christopher Moore and Neil Gaiman books. My nieces started reading different genres (specifically, crime drama and satire), opening up whole new realms of wonder. One person used the book as a coaster, where it sat on a coffee table for months before it was picked up, read, and loved. Friends who looked down on comics/graphic novels have gotten into Brian K Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man and Sandman by Neil Gaiman. This year I may introduce them to Fables.
I also left some paperbacks in random places around town (parks, tables of cafes, etc) with a note saying “Free. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.” I like to think someone did.
Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it makes me smile.
“Dead tree tomes are passe. It’s all about digital.” Okay, fine. Then send someone an eBook. There are many places where you can download a pdf of an authors work, and Amazon has even come up with a way you can gift a Kindle book. It took me under 10 seconds to find that link; I’m sure a quick search of the Googles will let you find tons of eBooks at affordable prices just raring to be sent out amongst the tubes.
I could sit here and type a heavy-handed statement about the decline of education and the correlation of people not reading, but that’s not the point. The point is, if you love to read, no matter the genre, share it with someone. If you feel awkward, tell folks it’s the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of gifts. “I like this, and I like you, so it would be cool if two things I like liked each other.”
If nothing else you’re giving somebody a present, which everybody loves, and therefore you made someone’s day a wee bit better.
Happy St. George’s Day. Let me know how it works out for you.
EDIT: Since this was written, I have discovered that April 23 is also the International Day of The Book. This is also awesome, but now I have to rewrite all this stuff. Or add an edit at the bottom, which I have done, like so.