I have a confession to make. I am a habitual re-reader of books. When I find one I like, I just can’t stop from reading it over and over. It’s safe to say I have novels that I have read well over 25 times each.
This habit prevents me from starting new stories and definitely hinders my TBR (To Be Read) pile on the bedside table from getting any smaller.
During this less social time while brick and mortar book sellers and libraries are closed and we are at home with time on our hands, I have found an interest in picking up new, unread novels and books that I currently own. I recently finished a memoir that a good friend of mine (a memoir writer herself) gave to me over a year ago. It was as beautiful and moving as she told me it would be and I’m grateful that I found the time now to read it (so much so that I’m sure I’ll read it again. Someday.)
I love memoirs and I’m an avid memoir reader. My top favorites include Glennon Doyle (her new book “Untamed” is beautifully written, light-hearted, and full of interesting and insightful advice about family, love, and life); Jen Lancaster (a hilarious writer who has written 5 or 6 memoirs about her life and each one is funnier than the next); Abby Maslin (yes, she’s my best friend, but her debut memoir “Love You Hard” is a powerful account of a tragic event that she ultimately recognizes the beauty in it and grows from trauma); and lastly, Elizabeth Gilbert (does she even need an introduction? Her travel memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” took the world by storm and it never fails to encourage and inspire.).
As I was making this list of authors and books I’d recommend to others, I reached out to my colleagues and asked them what they were reading. Their responses made me feel like I had my own virtual library right at my fingertips. In a flash of an email, it was suggested that murder mysteries and whodunits were a great way to keep your mind engaged and entertained while escaping from reality.
Our publisher said she had found a collection of short stories left in the house by one of her kids (now an adult and out of the house) that was an assigned reading from a college course and began reading it with earnest, despite it not being a genre of books that she normally reads.
Our Art Director listed books she had been reading and re-reading (yes!) with her son—classics like “The Outsiders” and series like “Harry Potter,” “Divergent,” “Percy Jackson” and “Hunger Games.” The list got even longer when my editor suggested World World II books, both fiction and non-fiction, saying the non-fiction ones help tremendously with the validity of the fiction stories, making them sharper and more interesting knowing the truth behind the fiction. (Her suggestions included “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” “The Nightingale,” “The Woman Who Smashed Codes,” and “Unbroken.”)
When you don’t have a ton of books at your fingertips, or are in need of new ones, here are some ideas to create your own Virtual Library:
Do as I did and send an email asking for ‘Staff Picks’. Ask your family and friends to list a few titles that they have read and enjoyed and would recommend to others. Pay attention to more than just the title though, also take note of the genre. If one person recommends a murder mystery by Mary Higgins Clark but you can only find Agatha Christie on your basement bookshelf, it’s definitely worth giving that one a go. But if you despise romance novels, skip your cousin’s Nora Roberts recommendations!
Bring Back the Classics
Your childhood classics, that is! I’ve recently pulled out “Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” “Chocolate Fever,” “The Hobbit,” and “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” for my kids to start reading. It’s been amazing to not only see my kids reading books from my childhood but also reading out loud with them and starting conversations with them about the stories.
Create your own Free Library
If you’re not a re-reader like myself and have books that you or your family are done reading, put them in a box at the end of your driveway with a sign that says ‘FREE.’ So many of us are taking more walks, due to the nice weather and the social distancing, so you are sure to have neighbors walk by frequently that might be very happy to score a new book to read while on their afternoon stroll. Think of it as exercise for both body and mind. If your neighborhood has a Facebook or Nextdoor group, the books will be headed home with new readers in no time!
Ask friends for a book “drive-by” and do the same for them with a “drive thru.” Tell your friend or neighbor that you are going to drop off books on their front stoop that you think they would like to read and have your friends do the same on your front stoop. Put your name and address either on an index card or on the inside of the book if you would like that book returned to you and create your own circular book train.
Start a Book/Movie club
So many fantastic books have been made into fantastic movies and with streaming services abound, you are sure to find a version of a book adapted into film. Round up some friends and chat about your favorites, or rope the kids into reading a book together and then watching the movie.
Check out Amazon’s Audible. It is an amazing collection of audio books, both for kids and adults. Plus, Amazon is offering tons of free audio books for kids. The best part is you can access it from your phone, tablet, or computer without ever losing your place.
Check it Out
If you’re more inclined to read a book on a tablet or ereader, you can still enjoy new books without paying a dime by downloading the Libby app and logging in with your library card. The Anne Arundel County Public Library has a an incredible inventory of books available free at your fingertips. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can ask for it to be added to their collection, and you’ll be notified when it becomes available.
—Claire Dougherty Kovacs
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