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Reading Because We Love It

This past Saturday, my book group held its annual book choosing, a day we gather to eat finger food, bask in books, and choose the twelve books we’ll be reading this coming year. For the choosing we each nominate books we’d like the group to read—this year there were 78, from classics to just-published. We then each do a brief pitch for the books we’ve nominated. We vote, and out of our vote  comes the list of 12, the months when we’ll read each book, and who will be in charge of facilitating the discussion.

I’ve been a member of this group for 30 years and during that time our list of nominations, which we keep just in case any of us runs out of suggestions for books to read, has grown to over 800 books.

The group has been an anchor in my life, the source of many friends, books as well as people, and great discussions from which I always learn. Most of all, I belong to the group—and actually one other group—because I love to read and, even better, to discuss the books I read with others who’ve read them too.

If you have these inclinations, a book group might be just the thing for you, whether it’s a professional reading group like #NCTEreads, one as described in the NCTE position Teachers as Readers: Forming Book Groups as Professionals, or a group of friends and acquaintances like my group. There are also online groups, such as the Goodread Groups, library groups, and bookstore groups. The latter two types can likely be found in your own locality.

Book club or not, I’d like to encourage you to read the books you’d like to read for yourself—even fluff, beach reads, and mysteries—all year, but especially in the summer. As Shonda Rhimes notes in her “Summer Book Preview: The 10 Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down,”

Too hot weather aside, “Summer movies are fun, the TV is great, the music is jamming and, despite my summer reservations, it is inherently a great season for reading. Beach reads, train reads, reads while drinking a frozen drink—warmer months just lend themselves to indulging in well-deserved relaxation and reading.”

If you’re looking for reading suggestions, try Goodreads, your local library, your friends, suggestions on the Twitterverse hashtag #summerreads, and lists that appear in local and national newspapers and magazines—just Google.

You already know this but reinforcement is a good reminder. Neil Gaiman in his speech to The Reading Agency in 2013, shares, perhaps, one of the most quoted answers to the question of why reading is important for everyone:

[E]verything changes when we read. . . . You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed. . . . Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

Read—because you love it, because you deserve it, because you need it, and so does the world!