At first glance, one might conclude that interest in reading is giving way to an ecosystem of interruptive technologies. Soon, you think to yourself, physical books and our ability to focus on a single task may soon be a relic of the past. Interestingly, the stats don’t support this notion. In the last five years, the revenue of non-fiction print books grew 22.8%, while the sales of e-books declined. The feel of a physical books beat screens and pixels.
We are not in some post-literacy era. Reading is more popular than football. And for a good reason. Football is about aggression, whereas reading makes us happier and smarter. It allows us to delve into topics of interest and spend hours reading to determine what will happen to Asher Lev (My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok).
What was your favorite fiction, the one you couldn’t tear yourself away from? Perhaps a non-fiction book transformed your thinking and changed your life.
Pollyanna changed me. Pollyanna’s “glad game” was the spark for me to probe more deeply into the idea we have a choice of how to build our inner lives. To this day, I continue to read about people’s thoughts and experiences. It all began with a childhood book I read again and again—each time gaining a deeper understanding.
Fiction characters’ conflicts and values make for good conversations. However, deep reading, or whatever we call it, is mainly for reading non-fiction. I found parts of my own story in Gifts from the Sea, On Brassard’s Farm, Getting Unstuck, Our Souls at Night. Fever, Feuds, and Diamonds and Caste: the Origin of Our Discontent reminded me how we are all connected.
Slow reading is to read at a pace where we take in and reflect on the written words. In Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle writes, “This is not a book to be read from cover to cover and then put away. Live with it. Pick it up frequently and, more importantly, put it down frequently.” Does the Bible or another spiritual text rest on your nightstand?
Book clubs of thoughtful readers with the mindsets to share and learn from each other deepen the reading experience.
Leading an online bookclub, I explained that we would read the books to discover how we our experiences related to the story. Reading Night Road by Kristin Hannah (fiction), we reflected on loss and belonging in our lives. Finding Freedom by Erin French (non-fiction) was comparing our big life’s decisions that were difficult and how they worked out. This approach forges a connection between women.
Another way to upgrade bookclubs is structuring them around a topic, such as a history of using plants as medicine. Only readers with enough interest in plants sign up. Easing into the subject, I’d begin with The Language of Flowers (fiction) by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s a story of a young girl whose only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Next, we’d read The Lost Apothecary (fiction) by Sarah Penner, about plants, revenge, and poison. Then a book about the history of our local flora, cooking with herbs, and ending with non-fiction, The Green Witch: … the Natural Magic of Herbs. After reading five books about plants, imagine our expertise in making tea for our physical aches and Gluehwine for winter days and a warmer outlook.