I think I could write about books and reading every day.
And today I will focus more on bookshelves <but still throw in some thoughts on reading>.
I know I could never run out of fabulous quotes and thoughts about reading & books.
“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.”
Jacqueline Woodson, brown girl dreaming
“You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads … may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days.
And out of that love, remake a world.”
“We willingly enter fictional worlds where we cheer our heroes and cry for friends we never had.”
And while I never tire of talking about books let me note that I absolutely love looking at bookshelves wherever I go.
They speak for their owners.
The fake books?
The new books never opened?
The old well worn books?
Business people have business books and dreamers have novels & poetry and revolutionaries have books overthrowing the oppressors.
I love my books, even the ones that have gone yellow and slightly worse for wear.
What does my bookshelf say about me? Beyond the fact I absolutely need to dust more often … I am not sure … other than I love books.
In fact … rather than describe it myself found a blog where someone wrote out how I feel perfectly:
She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails gliding across the spinal cord of each book.
It sounded like an instrument, or the notes of running feet.
She used both hands.
She raced them.
One shelf against the other.
And she laughed.
I sigh almost every time I read those words.
All books on a bookshelf should bring forth music in the mind.
And as you look at someone’s bookshelf … hold yourself back from scoffing <I just wanted to type that word> at some of the titles because … well … any & all books read are worth reading.
And all that crap about ‘reading crappy books versus good serous books’ … well … its crap.
Reading remakes the mind. And that means any reading.
I had this ‘any reading’ debate in a TED discussion and while I was getting lambasted by a bunch of pretentious blowhards … I got saved by one PhD:
Ok, I PROMISED myself to not get involved “reading” one more group discussion….but… I don’t even know where to begin with this one.
I have a PhD in reading. Not that this necessarily means I’m smart, it’s just that I’ve studied and continue to study reading.
So here goes…it doesn’t matter what a person reads, in what form, by which author, on which device.
I challenge all of you to check out from the library a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg entitled The Wretched Stone. WAIT…it’s a picture book. Ok, the first person who can tell me what, who, etc. the stone represents wins.
I’m a reading consultant hired by school districts to show teachers how to teach reading. I use this book and the participants can’t come up with a thought.
Notice I didn’t say answer. I said thought.
If our educators don’t read and think what’s going to happen to our kids in school today? Send a note to your child’s teacher asking them to recommend a book for YOU to read.
Let me know what happens.
My first “Crayola secret” for you is that we all read on 4 different levels: instructional, informational, recreational and frustrational.
Not any one is better than the other.
Does this discussion make you think, connects you to a past experience, wants you to get together with the rest of us to discuss?
The definition of comprehension?
It’s still being worked on.
No one, not even the experts and researchers, can seem to agree.
Marti Dryk, PhD
Reading is good … in any form or fashion.
And that is why I love bookshelves.
Only a bookshelf can truly hold a reader’s history and future at the same time <I am fairly sure the present is usually found in a book bag or next to the bed>.
Bookshelves help us comprehend the person. It gives us a glimpse of who they are … not just how they think. And bookshelves are clearly a reflection of the fact they think about something.
A lifelong reader myself, I’ve always had an obsession with seeing a person’s bookshelf, to get a sense of what they’ve brought inside their home and their head.
Bookshelves are universal in that almost everyone has one, and unique in that no two collections are the same.
They reflect much more than just the book-buying habits of their owner.
Titles are easy to acquire and even easier to sell off or leave behind, so if it’s worthy of your shelf space, I want to know why. Your bookshelf is an intimate physical representation of your accomplishments (titles as trophies earned), aspirations (that ever growing to-read pile), associations (that book your boss gave to each employee), personal development (those self-help titles that urged you to talk to strangers), guilty pleasures (50 shades of beach reads), escapes (sci-fi to some, travelogues to others), memories (meeting that author, visiting that indie shop on vacation), interests (the bigger the Star Wars fan, the more Star Wars books) and countless other tells that another reader would unconsciously and immediately compare against their own shelf.
And that’s just the ingredients – how you organise, arrange, and display these titles should impart even more insight as to a reader’s personality.
A bookshelf’s organisation, or lack thereof, can show that practicality and discoverability is the priority when shelved alphabetically by author (as is the traditional way). But if it’s arranged by colour or trim size of the book spines, the owner obviously prizes appearance and display above finding the right title quickly.
More likely the shelf is representative of how the reader sees their own collection: frequent favourites at eye level, grouped together according to genre/topic/theme and other commonalities. I imagine each section, as its own book club where a title relates to the ones around it, clustering authors that would have a lot to discuss among themselves.
Some people’s bookshelves sometimes look like … well … a display of accomplishments.
And, to me, reading should be more a pleasure than an accomplishment.
A bookshelf shouldn’t be a reflection of ‘list of books I have read’ but instead a ‘list of books I loved.’
As I write that I think about this gizmo company called Spritz.
How To Read A 223-Page Novel In Just 77 Minutes
Spritz is a company that makes a speed-reading technology which allows you to get through a mass of text, reading every word, in a fraction of the time it would take if you were turning the pages of a book or swiping through a Kindle.
The basis of Spritz concept is that much of the time spend reading is “wasted” on moving your eyes from side to side, from one word to the next. By flashing the words quickly, one after the other, all in the same place, eye movement is reduced almost to zero. All that’s left is the time you take to process the word before the next one appears.
I have nothing against Spritz. They probably know their shit.
What I have a problem with is that this isn’t reading for pleasure.
And while someone may suggest that I have my criteria screwed up I would argue that research shows when something is pleasurable it is more likely to be remembered and absorbed in the mind <that would be cognitive learning I believe>.
Therefore … when it comes to books & reading it seems like the goal should be to insure that as many people as possible at least like reading … if not have a love for reading as they go about their lives. Pleasure rather than how fast they read books.
And it seems like it should be easier to share this whole ‘reading is pleasurable’ because I cannot think of one person who doesn’t like the concept of traveling.
And I am selling ‘traveling’ not reading.
“Reading makes immigrants of us all.
It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I will never stop trying to get people to understand that reading is a type of traveling. Not just to places but also to spaces in the mind.
Past words I have written about reading:
<actual benefits of reading & thinking>
<don’t abuse your love for reading>
I have written far too much, and too often, about how all the words & thinking travel throughout the head all the while expanding the mind <because the mind is like a muscle> and the fact it also impacts cognitive thinking and comprehension.
Therefore … getting back to bookshelves … bookshelves show us where someone’s mind has traveled.
By the way.
Any and all traveling is good.
In other words … you cannot have a crappy bookshelf.
The kind of communications & thinking skills people learn which they can apply in Life <intelligently interpreting to cogently arguing> can be built from all kinds of ‘texts’ <words> … from illustrated comic books to television advertisements, from popular crime thrillers to science fiction and fantasy novels, from op-ed style essays to the writings of sports columnists and political bloggers.
There is no formula.
If someone is interested in science they can read a selection or collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould or maybe read the content about a particular topic, like climate change, shared in the Guardian.
If someone loves a particular sport they can read something about that sport, whether that be daily news articles about a particular team, or biographies or autobiographies of players, or histories of the game.
All I know is that with every word you read you gain the opportunity to remake the world in your head.
Enough about reading, traveling and bookshelves.
It is difficult for me, as a lover of reading, to believe someone does not love reading.
It is almost incomprehensible to me.
What helps me sleep at night ? <assuming I can put a book down and sleep>
I feel like loving to read at least gives me a glimmer of hope of ending up in heaven.
“I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble—the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms …
‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading’.”
“How Should One Read a Book?”
And, of course, my version of heaven has books.
“Maybe Heaven will be a library.
Then I will be able to finish my to-read list.”
Thank you for letting me ramble about books and bookshelves and reading today.
And maybe you will take a minute and look at bookshelves a little differently now.
Here is what I do know.
I will keep sharing thoughts because remaking how you think & what you think is a topic always worth discussing.
And that is what reading is all about.