Conversations with Books

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The Library book club that I facilitate met this past week to discuss the month’s selected read, Having and Being Had by Eula Biss, and our discussion did not stop from the get go. It was really a delightful example of the power of connection that a work of literature embodies. I bring this up because I have been thinking about connection and communication lately: connection and communication to one another and to ourselves.

Reading is clearly a solitary pursuit, most of the time. Parents read to their children all the time, we read articles to our friends that we find stimulating, or we read as group, in passages, in a learning or workshop setting. So, reading is not just someone curled up in a quiet corner, lost in the world of their book, it’s social too. I am sure I am not telling you anything that you do not already know, but let’s turn to something that we may often overlook.

Living is isolating. The majority of the time, we are experiencing and living our lives entirely by ourselves, fact and point. This gives us plenty of time to get to know ourselves, but many of us are petrified of doing so or could use a little help finding the language or the tools to delve deep into that understanding. And it is so important that we know ourselves, because if we do not, we cannot truly connect with other people or even grow as an individual. As a man I admire, RuPaul Andre Charles, says “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?!” Amen, RuPaul!

Enter a book. One of the most excellent resources to learn about yourself or the language to begin that journey of self-discovery. Within its pages you can find yourself reflected through the words of another, give yourself the mental space and time to sit within yourself, or stumble upon something about yourself that you didn’t know was there – it brings our awareness to within. There is so much in our world that we may struggle to comprehend and reading can help us to understand, or at least empathize.

That brings us to one another. ¡Híjole! How much communication gets mussed between us all… That is what is so great about a book: it can show is a different perspective from our own and provide the starting point for us to dive into discussion about things that need to be discussed or clarified. Books help us connect and communicate with one another; they assist in shaping us into people who want to be better people to ourselves and to one another. (Of course, this is dependent on people being allowed and willing to read things that challenge them to think differently or look at a situation from a perspective other than their own, but that takes us to a different – though very much related – topic that we won’t go to right now.)

Do we put enough emphasis on reading? Of course, in my world, that is a backbone of practically every conversation, but… my vocation is within a Public Library and I am an avid reader, birthed from a family of readers and with friends that are readers. So, it comes as no surprise to me that others are not privy to some of the things that I voraciously keep tabs on like the banning of books in public school systems or the take over of public library by boards dead set on censoring public materials. Reading is not everyone’s “thing”, but the truth is, practically everyone is reading every day. Reading their friends Facebook shares; reading Twitter rants; reading news articles; reading the Chipotle menu; reading the stock market; reading the ingredients list on the can of organic pumpkin purée; whatever. We are reading all the time. Through those words, we are trying to communicate all the time. Do we realize that?

I suppose I am going to close my thoughts with the feeling of connection that I had during our book club discussion. As a spoke toward a question of conversation and looked from member to member, I was feeling seen, I was feeling heard and I was able to see the same feelings displayed in the expressions of my fellow book clubbers. And it was a humbling and uniting feeling. A feeling best expressed through the words of one of our members, “I’m really glad I came today! This was a great conversation!” Agreed, Sylvie, agreed.

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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