Suzanne Tobias

Reading time is out there, you just have to be ready

While awaiting my son’s band performance recently, I enjoyed several chapters of a new novel al fresco, overlooking South High’s stadium on a gorgeous fall evening.
While awaiting my son’s band performance recently, I enjoyed several chapters of a new novel al fresco, overlooking South High’s stadium on a gorgeous fall evening. The Wichita Eagle

This will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column, but I like to read.

I enjoy novels, magazine articles, blogs and picture books. I read cookbooks, newspapers, handbills and Twitter. When I visit schools as part of my other job as The Eagle’s education reporter, I read bulletin boards and classroom posters and things taped to locker doors.

During this year’s Wichita Big Read, an annual citywide reading experience, I was invited to participate in the Wichita Public Library’s online book club, a Facebook Live discussion of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

As part of that discussion, librarians Racine and Sara pondered Bradbury’s famous quote: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

It’s true, and it’s happening. Whenever I talk with friends about books — at literary events or just in casual conversation — they often complain that they don’t read as much as they’d like.

There’s no time, they say. Too many things jockey for position in their super-scheduled lives, and reading for pleasure fell of the agenda. They’d like to start again, but how?

Well, here’s a thought:

You may or may not know that November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, an effort for would-be writers to get going on that novel inside them.

But it is also, thanks to writer/blogger/artist Austin Kleon, NaNoReadMo — “a celebration of the fact that we don’t just need great novel writers, we need great novel readers,” Kleon says.

Participating is simple: Every day of November, share a novel you like with the #NaNoReadMo hashtag on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram or other social media account.

That’s it. Just think about a book you love — one that meant a lot to you as a child or adolescent, or one you’ve read recently — and put it out there, like a beacon shining through the nobody-reads-enough darkness.

Then check out the books other people post about. Maybe one will speak to you. You’ll love the cover, or you’ll wonder about the setting, or you’ll remember a friend raving about that same book, and you’ll hurry to your local bookstore or library to find a copy.

And then, my friends, the only thing left to do is start reading.

For me the trick is to always carry a book — or two, or several — with me. (This is what car trunks are for.) I do most of my reading in waiting rooms, parking lots and swim-meet pool decks, taking advantage of those 20- or 30-minute periods that pepper most working moms’ days.

Just this week, when my son had to report to a Band-O-Rama performance an hour before the event was scheduled to begin, I brought along a novel and enjoyed several chapters al fresco, overlooking South High’s Carpenter Stadium on a gorgeous fall evening. There are many worse ways to spend your time.

Don’t want to lug around a traditional book? (I’m old school, I’ll admit it.) Upload some e-books to your phone, and you’ll always have reading material handy.

I hope you’ll participate in #NaNoReadMo. For a list of ways to shoehorn more reading into your life, I also recommend Kleon’s “How to Read More,” a post that includes this liberating thought (applicable to everyone but students, perhaps): “If you aren’t enjoying a book, stop reading it immediately.”

I’ll catch you online in November. Can’t wait to see what you’re reading.