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.”

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

Ray Bradbury, “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.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.

Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life”

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.

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