It’s OK! Unplug, and pick up a book. (Or, why I took the 50 Book Pledge)

I love reading, I always have. However, at some point in my late teens to early twenties this hobby went the way of the dodo. I think life decided to occupy my time with other adventures. No matter what, somehow every summer I would manage to tear through a good chunk of novels, re-reading old favourites and discovering new ones, alike. I am a person with a set of “traditions” when it comes to books. I absolutely must read Wuthering Heights every Christmas, Pride and Prejudice every spring, and to quench my inner child and fangirl, I re-read every Harry Potter novel prior to the release of each film installment. Nerdy? Yes. A non-negotiable? You bet. In between the repeats, I manage to get my hands on new authors, new books by beloved authors, and hand-me-down from people I know.

There’s absolutely no replacement for an amazing, imaginative story. Think back to your childhood, and I guarantee you will recall a picture book or early novel that is engrained in your memories. For me, that novel, or rather, collection of stories is The World of Pooh by A. A. Milne. My 5th grade teacher switched out two of our silent reading blocks every week for read aloud story time. I’m not sure if it was the fervour with which he narrated the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, or his palpable joy in the stories themselves that entranced me. Either way, I was done for: hook, line and sinker; a book-worm was born. It also helped that our elementary school had one of the most passionate librarians around. She actually listened to every students’ idea of their perfect story, and set out to find it. Swashbuckling pirates? No problem, Robinson Crusoe is your man! Creepy, crawler thrillers? R. L. Stein, meet your audience.

Maybe it was a combination of passionate teachers and librarians that got me hooked, I’ll never really know. What I do know, and fear is that this generation, (mine), is increasingly unable to disconnect. I mean that in a figurative and literal sense. We are always plugged in. I will be the first to admit that I have a disturbing reliance on my phone, computer, internet connection and T.V.; when the power goes out, I freak out. It was during one such outage and its resulting restlessness and junkie-in-withdrawl behaviour on my part that I realized this had to stop. I found our stash of emergency candles, grabbed a glass of water, a book, a blanket and sat my sorry-technologically-connected butt down. The next thing I knew, it was four hours later, the power had returned about two and a half hours prior and I was on chapter 14 of 37 in my book. I didn’t even flinch. In fact, when I did resurface from my novel, I went up to my computer, turned it off, put my phone down to charge, and sat down to finish my book. It was the best afternoon and evening I had in about six months. Soon, I would begin to get to bed earlier, in an effort to sneak in a few pre-slumber chapters of that week’s literary work. My love affair was rekindled.

As luck would have it, around the holidays this year, a former co-worker and fellow alumni told me about her 50 Book Pledge. She had made the pledge last year, and read right down to the wire, and loved every minute of it. Thinking back on my own year, I calculated I was in the same ball park as well, I just hadn’t kept track of any of the books I read. To this day, there are some I can’t remember having read, then painfully realize once I am a chapter in, that I have. (Thank goodness for the local library!) I decided to take the plunge, and put my money where my mouth is, signing myself up as well, in the official sense. In an extra effort to motivate myself, I published this pledge on my blog, and created a page solely for the purpose of tracking my progress and my rating of each book.

Since the start of 2012, I’ve been slowly and discreetly informing friends and family that I have signed up for the Savvy Reader’s 50 Book Pledge. I say discreetly with conviction: I have been finding ways to casually bring up reading and/or novels into the vast majority of my conversations in an effort to pick my friend’s brains for their thoughts about their current literature choices. Consequently, they knowingly and unknowingly from my “To-Read” list. This is not a new tactic for me: for quite some time, I’ve slowly become the go-to “hey! what should I read?”; “do you have a book I can borrow?”; “I’m going on vacation, need beach reads, STAT” person in my social circle.

This role has developed itself slowly, but surely since university at Carleton. By the time my final year rolled around, let’s face it, I was sick of reading on average 400-600 pages of mind-numbing-theory-based-drivel on a weekly basis. (In hindsight, this probably explains my elective choices of History at the Movies, Italian, and the Social History of Alcohol still my top three courses in university). Back to my mushy mind; I started picking up whatever book  not assigned in a syllabus that I could get my hands on. By spring, I had realized something: between September and April, I had read, in addition to all of my coursework, 32 books of varying genres. Do the math; that is 32 books in eight months: four books a month, for a full-time student who also held down a part-time job averaging 20 hours a week. At that rate I would devour 48 no problem. A-ha! A goal was formed: hit 50 books that year. Since then, (2009), I have more-or-less kept up that pace; give or take one or two. Along the way, I’ve converted skeptics into readers; and hopefully reminded them that sometimes, it’s OK to unplug, escape, and be a kid again.

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One thought on “It’s OK! Unplug, and pick up a book. (Or, why I took the 50 Book Pledge)

  1. This reads wonderfully. I know that it’s my own fault for not reading more, or more often, but this makes me feel like it’s not a hopeless situation, and that reading more is just around the corner. I love the fact that one of the tags on this post is “fortunate events”. That about sums up the entirety of my time spent reading your work.

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