Some want the easy paperback in one hand. They recline on a sofa with the light-weight novel of romance or murder — or some mixture of the two — transporting them from dull den to detective’s eyes.
Some want only the classics, feeling as though they must sponge up each line of the Western Canon. They gaze only upon what has stood the test of time.
Some seek out the new greats, exploring what upstart writer will carry the spark of a Cormac McCarthy, an Annie Proulx, a Richard Price.
Some want to know about black holes, the fact that time can actually bend, the possibilities of life on other planets. They want to know about the oceans, the oily animals beneath those waves, the volcanoes that spew out the earth’s hot blood. They want to understand tornadoes and poisonous snakes that wade through weeds.
Some want to know what Obama or McCain really think, what the Bush Administration discussed as it prepared for the war in Iraq. We see the daily news, but books offer a more detailed account of how these newsmakers think.
Some want to know what John Adams wrote to his wife, how Napoleon’s men lost their toes, then their lives in the cold of Russia. The realist has little time for fiction, though contemplating the days long gone is an act of imagination, too.
Some want the self-help guide to weight loss, to home improvements, to identifying the trees on their road. Others want technical help for desktop publishing or managing their new hot dog hut.
Some see Curious George ring the fire bell when he wasn’t supposed to, see the pop up books with friendly grizzlies, see the silly hats of Dr. Seuss.
Some want crossword puzzles and word games — pleasant escapes for travel and waiting rooms. Some want a book of jokes. Some want the book of Job.
Some write our books, seeing their names on the shelves. They pour something out from inside, embracing that “negative capability,” the act of plowing forward despite the self doubt, the real potential for failure. Who hasn’t stared at a blank page and felt that powerful nothing staring back? To complete the book, well, that is a journey few make.
But some just feel the weight of the books on their back, waiting for a moment to sling down those shackles and run to freedom, away from school, away from responsibility. Of course, we’ve all felt that at some point, especially at this time of year, when school ends.
But it’s good to come back.
However, some never do. They choose never to notice books at all. They feel it’s a world not worth exploring, not rich with possibility, not related to their own breathing in and out.
Our literacy rates are important, not just so kids can score well on tests and so our community can have a solid work force in years to come. Yes, those things matter, but you want a kid to read, so he or she can enjoy a good part of life and can recognize the value in constant learning — how even an elderly person with a healthy mindset still considers himself a student of sorts.
So it’s encouraging that we have people in our community who try to help youngsters see the value of books. The Rotary Club is trying to do just that right now. (See the front page story). We also have plenty of people in our school system working hard each day to drive these points home to kids. And take note of all the hard work the Madison County Library does in trying to encourage local youth to read.
They all should be supported in their efforts.
That beautiful world of words has so much to do with all of us, whether we choose to see it or not. It’s a vast universe and worth taking the time to explore.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.