When I was a kid my mother once said, “Why do you like to read so much?” She was annoyed because I was one of those kids who lay around the house with a book, came to the dinner table with a book, and rode in the car with a book. I even read when I walked!
I don’t remember my answer, but it was probably something pithy like, “I just do.”
Escapism? Learning? Having a good laugh? Having a good cry? It’s all there.
(Photo by Margaretta K. Mitchell)
So on this lead-up to thanksgiving, I’m giving thanks for the writers who have made my life richer. They have described places I’ve never been and am never likely to go. They’ve introduced me to characters I would either love or hate in real life, and taught me something about what makes them tick. They’ve explained science to me in fiction and non-fiction in ways that expanded my awe of the universe I live in. They’ve made me think hard about the way I live my life and how lucky I am. And about people whose lives are blighted and who managed to rise above it or are sunk by it. They have revealed the lives of people unimaginably different from me by virtue of their skin color or their cultural heritage or their belief systems.
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t read a phrase that makes me pause and ponder: what does this really mean? Makes me wonder how the author came by such wisdom. Makes me feel awe for his or her ability to articulate something I’ve felt and could never quite describe—or something I’ve never felt, and am amazed by.
As a writer I know that people who come up with these stories that make my life richer work really hard, often with little compensation. They spend many hours alone, many hours feeling frustrated that the ideas they started out with haven’t materialized on the page. They feel afraid that they will never produce the work they set out to accomplish. They feel numb when the ideas don’t come. And yet they keep going, reaching, reaching. I salute them for their courage.
I’m thankful for writers who write deep, serious books, for those who write about history and science and psychology and travel and cooking and art. I’m thankful for those who write humor and fantasy. All of it.
And for this week’s recommendation: Young Americans, by Josh Stallings. This is a roller-coaster of a book—funny, outrageous, a zinger. It’s a caper set in the 70s, with a cast of characters you probably would be totally annoyed with in real life. But in Stalling capable hands, you’ll find yourself rooting for them the same way you do for characters in a Carl Hiaassen novel. It’s hot off the press. Enjoy.