Today is National Read a Book Day, and as a book lover and Free Library staff member it’s my sworn duty to encourage everyone I meet today to pick up a book, so expect some recommendations here. Reading can be so much more than looking at written words on a page, and it’s that amazing experience that I want to celebrate on this special book reading day.
From the crisp feeling of the pages in a new copy of The Nickel Boys I recently finished to the memory of a hot cup of tea in one hand and the blanket on my lap while reading 1984, every reading adventure is its own particular experience. We all have our favorite chair to read in, our preferred drink by our side. We have favorite books that we re-read at specific times (I tend to revisit Little Women at Christmas) or specific genres we look for when we’re feeling down. We have smells that remind us of specific stories and books that launch new interests (The Diary of Anne Frank started my interest in nonfiction). And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, those experiences stick with us as memories that we learn from, look back on with fondness, or return to when we need a touch of nostalgia.
When I was 16, a friend introduced me to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, which I proceeded to read in private for fear that I’d have to explain to my parents why the story of Jesus was suddenly laugh-out-loud hilarious. Later that year, I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood for the first time, and was utterly engrossed in the psychology of people capable of committing a horrific crime. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach the whole time, but still I devoured Capote’s words. And then I became a psychology minor.
One Friday last month, I woke up with a gritty feeling in my eyes that is all too familiar. It comes from staying up into the wee hours of the morning because I’ve decided I can’t possibly stop reading a book—"just one more chapter" until there are no more. Last month it was John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood that encouraged my excitement and overshadowed my desire for sleep on a work night, but it wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last.
A few years ago, I read The Fault in Our Stars on a cross country flight. I’ll probably never forget the look of horror on my seatmate’s face when they realized this mess would be their companion for the next six hours. And I was a mess, sobbing quietly for two fictional characters experiencing the kind of pain real people experience every day. Some authors have an uncanny way of getting under your skin, and John Green is one of those authors for me. Another is Tana French, but instead of making me cry, her books often give me weird dreams. Her writing is so dark and twisting, full of mystery, suspense, and Irish brogues. In the Woods was definitely the culprit of a late night reading episode.
Some of my favorite memories are with the lovingly worn books I’ve taken out from a myriad of libraries over the years. I have a special place in my heart for those books because they illustrate the numerous people who are sharing this story with you. I distinctly remember reading The Golden Compass series as a teen and wondering whether the readers before me had laughed when I laughed or cried when I cried. For me, that connection to fellow readers is part of the charm of libraries.
For me, reading is always an experience. Whether I’m curled up under a blanket by myself reading The Book Thief or sprawled on the living room rug with four of my best friends eating candy and reading the new Harry Potter novel together through the night, the experience of reading a book is a wonderful feeling. And I have so many of these experiences tucked away on a shelf like memories of a friend with whom I’ve lost touch, but could easily reconnect with at any moment.
So on today, this celebration of reading and books, I challenge you to truly experience a book with your whole self. And whether it’s a story you’re reading for the first time or a beloved one full of memories, share your book experiences with us below!