Saturday, August 07, 2004

on reading

Okay if you know me then you know I'm a reading fool. It's almost a sickness that on some days I wish I was without but it does give me almost endless entertainment no matter where I go. Thanks to the people at Books for Soldiers, and the libraries of books left behind in almost every building out here, I haven't even come close to running out of books to read. With my job you could say I'm in reader heaven.

After you get into the thousands of books read, reading becomes a search for those touchstone books, books that sink into your head like a stone. The words printed on the page whisper a cadence into your subconscious mind. These books come back like friends years after you've read them and you have no problem returning to the world the author imagined for you. The search for these books is addictive but once found you gather them up and infect your normally not reading friends with them. Those innocent lines, "read this for a day and tell me what you think". My favorite book to pass on this way is a masterpiece by Robert McCammon called Boy's Life. Remember when you were a child and the world was still a big and magical place, what happened? You grew up and lost that spark. Well if you want it back, this is the book for you. After passing out countless copies, I would have to say it's changed more lives then any one thing I've done. I've started my own private little church of Boy's Life converts that are out there spreading the word.

After guiding these people to the light, I usually step back like a good drug dealer would and wait. I don't expect any body to start reading the amount of books that I do, such people only come around once in a blue moon, they are out there but I they don't usually advertise to the world the freaks that we are. I'm happy to have friends that read one book for every fifty that I've read. In reality I'm satisfied with people that have read a few from my collection of books I call my heavy books. This gives me a common ground to stand on and I'm sure deep down inside I use it as a test to discover who's human around me.

A week to a month later they come back to me, "Got any good books?" Hook, line and sinker. Then comes my second stage books, all people aren't interested in the same thing or have the same personalities. I'm still guiding them at this point, things that fit in here are books such as Ken Grimwood's Replay, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Charles De Lint's Trader or a new book I've just discovered, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

A few words about The Time Traveler's Wife because it's new to my "heavy" book list. Henry has a problem with time, he involuntary slips out of it and finds himself naked somewhere else, usually in his past where he has to deal with the problem of finding himself clothes and just making due until he's dragged back into his present. Most of his travels back in time are spent trying to survive, he's paranoid about driving, he runs all the time in his present because he has to run away from things so often on his jaunts. He's become expert the basic tools of time traveling, picking pockets, locks and hand to hand fighting. Just because he time travels doesn't mean he can actually change anything, seems time is already written and everything he does happens because it's supposed to. The first time he travels is when he's 5 and he goes to a museum that he visited with his parents that day. There his older 24 year old self is waiting for him to explain about time traveling. Clare first meets Henry when she's 6 and he's 36 in a field behind her house and he befriends her and gives her the date of his next visit before disappearing back into the future where they're married. His next trip out he gets her to write down all the dates that he's going to appear and so the story starts. Niffenegger takes this unusual idea and brings it into this world with grace. As with the rest of my "heavy" books every word here has its place, weight and meaning. She knows where she wants to take you and she does it well. That's what makes a good book.

Reasons for getting people to read these books? These books change peoples worldviews and I believe give them better tools to cope. Hopefully it moves them towards being a better person. My other reason is selfish I guess, maybe I'm using it as a litmus test to uncover kindred spirits that enjoy the same things that I do. They might enjoy reading but they haven't been exposed to the spark that will set them ablaze and touched them to the core, somewhere out there they're just waiting to be uncovered, can you hear me?

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