I was the child curled up in the corner chair with a book in her hands. “Ashley, turn on the light,” my mom would call from an adjoining room. “Your eyes will go bad.” My eyes were already bad. Blame my bad eyes on genetics, but don’t blame them on the fact that the plot was so thick in my latest Nancy Drew mystery that I didn’t notice dusk settling outside.
I read in the car (“That’s going to make you carsick!”), I read in my tree house, I read in the back room when I was supposed to be visiting with my grandparents in the living room. I dreamed of owning a bookstore where I would perch on my stool all day reading and making informed suggestions to the patrons who perused the books. And while I did plenty of normal kid things, like play outside and watch TV, I never stopped reading and learning and escaping and imagining. Books have informed and entertained me for as long as I can remember.
On my birthday last June I decided to read 40 books during the year I was 40. Unlike the challenge some may give themselves of climbing mountains or running marathons, I knew that this was an attainable goal for me. It forced me to record my progress and be deliberate in my reading; and I had a full year from start to finish. No book—however horrific I found the writing style or content to be after I began—could be discarded without finishing. This was rule No. 1 (and it’s the main reason why I wasted the entire month of February on a melodramatic work of historical fiction that made me never want to use an adjective again in writing). Rule No. 2 was that I made no more rules. I could read anything and everything. And I did. I finished my 40th book in early May with a newfound love of reading with purpose and a quirky habit of opening books at red lights.
Don’t tell me you don’t have time.
“What book are you on, Mom?” my children would ask, curling up next to me on the couch. They knew about the 40-book goal. “Wow, you only have 14 to go,” one would say, trying to divide the coming months into weeks and days to determine if I had enough time to finish. They kept track of me, which was a new thing because I am forever keeping track of them.
“Only 23 more minutes to go,” said a young voice from the living room on a recent Saturday morning. I force my kids to read for an hour to play electronics for an hour on the weekends. I don’t care that it is a Momma-imposed requirement. There is a tiny part of me that holds fast to the belief that the Minecraft brain suckage will be reduced through a few more Percy Jackson novels and a Junie B. Jones book or two. One can only dream.
Mark Twain once wrote, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” And I believe it. Reading is a gift, and it is one that bonds us all together, enlightens and informs. Well-written books make us more compassionate people.
With that principle in mind, I’d like to invite you to join me in a new online book club inRegister is launching this month called Worth the Read. We won’t waste your precious time—these books will be worth discussing. Join the group, and share the link with others who love to read. And for heaven’s sake, turn the lamp on—your eyes will go bad reading in this light.