I didn’t even know how much I needed them until they showed up. One or two a day, thirteen in all. Much loved books from strangers (and some friends, by coincidence) who joined me in one of those Facebook book exchange experiments. The one that asks you to send a book to someone you don’t know, repost the request, moving your friend’s name to the top, and yours below…so the next group will be sending you books.
Sounds complicated, and too much like a chain letter. It’s close to the holidays, and the election (my go-to excuse). One more thing. But I’ve been uninspired, and so very tired of TV (except for Survivor, congratulations to Adam on winning Season 33). So I said yes.
And then others, both real life and online friends, said yes. And their friends said yes. And the books started showing up. No notes (except for a few), no indication where they came from. But all lovely and loved, and oh so welcome.
I am a reader, or at least I used to be. The studio puts out an annual summer reading list. I have a Little Free Library in my front yard. But I get distracted easily and the truth is, I have been a reader who doesn’t read many books. A couple each year, but few enough that I felt like a faux-reader. Of course, that doesn’t keep me from buying them. I carry them on trips, keep them stacked by my living room chair, my bed, on my desk. And yet, it’s always easier to turn to Netflix, edit photos, or play a game on my phone. But the TV, especially the news, has become noise, and I don’t want to hear every detail of the transition, after I have read it in the paper. Steve, the man who used to make fun of my family (“You know, you guys sit around and read together, like for fun. I’m not saying it’s weird, but I’ve never seen that before”) reads more than I do.
But over the past two weeks, we have spent our evenings in silence. Drinking tea, with candles and Christmas light, and books (and maybe a few cookies). Reading, not watching. Imagining, not fearing. Following words, journeys, and pages. Quietly. Remembering that reading is magic, transformative, and just plain good for you.
And it’s been fantastic.
Certainly I have been inspired by the books themselves (this world is full of some amazing writers), but I am also inspired by all of those who said yes. Who didn’t worry if they would get their money’s worth, or what happened if they released their addresses. They just said yes, and then sent a stranger a book they loved. A stranger who happened to be a reader who wasn’t reading.
The Universe has her ways, doesn’t she?
So yes to books, and yes to friends. And this season I am going to rejoice, rest and read. (Also, switching out the tea for cocktails.)
Thank you Universe.
Here are the books I received:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (I tried this years ago and couldn’t get past the beginning, this time I read it in four days).
Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty ( I thought this was going to be a light read, a breather…and it was, until the end. And then it wasn’t so light anymore…)
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (next up, I think)
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (I’ve read this, but the one sent was the 25th edition, hardcover, so a keeper)
Upstream by Mary Oliver (I am saving this one for New Year’s Day)
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Steve grabbed this one first)
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Steve is reading this one now, with the emergency tissue, just in case)
The Cider House Rules by John Irving