Our Reading Lives

Dear “Reluctant” Readers: Why I Will Always Give You a Book for the Holidays

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I know, I know. Here I am, getting on my soap box again, trying desperately to describe to you that powerful warmth I get in my gut when I read, and that inexplicable wrenching in my heart when I know I’m holding a spectacular story in my hands.

I always fail in capturing that essence of that exact moment, though, don’t I? No matter how many times you hear me say that reading a good book can change everything, you can’t really know until it happens to you.

That is why I keep giving you books whenever I can. Why I will always give you books, no matter what.

Yes, I’ve heard it before. You don’t have time to read. You don’t have the patience to sit with the book. Couldn’t you just see the movie(s) anyway? (You say that last one teasingly, just to see my face contort in outrage.)

All of these remarks tell me one thing: the right book hasn’t found you yet. The story that will hold you fast to a seat, that will keep your eyes glued to the page even as the apocalypse arrives at your doorstep. The story that will unlock the door to a whole new world, will leave you crying hopelessly in the middle of the night — the one you wish you could go back and visit for the first time again, and again, and again.

That book is out there, waiting for you. I know, because I used to be just like you. I used to sigh, and sometimes even groan, at the idea of reading. Sure, you give me a story and I could tell you it’s characters and themes and the wherefores of the plot. I dragged my feet through many a book that way, such as The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Bridge to Terabithia. It pains me now, how little attention I paid to the heart-wrenching story of Jesse Aarons, among others. I was good at it, but I didn’t love it.

But then I found That Book.

Which means you will, too.

So every birthday, every family get-together, every summer meet up, and every winter holiday, I will be here with the next book. The next heart-wrenching story. The next character who is somehow so alive they will feel like your own flesh and blood. I’ll give it to you with bated breath, thinking, this, this is the one. I’ll watch as you take the gift in your hands, give me that cheeky half-smile as you say, “well of course I know what this gift is going to be…”

I’ll grin back at you, saying, “Trust me. Trust me. You’ll love this one.” And I want so desperately to be right, to finally, finally change everything you believed about yourself. I am not a reader, you say. But I know how wrong you are. Because all it would take is a single character, a single sentence. A single story.

And yes, I know. I know that right now, most, if not all, of the books I’ve gifted over the years are sitting primly on your clean bookshelves. They have no creases in them; their spines are perfectly in tact. They are respected, but not necessarily loved, because, as you say, you have no time to read. Your life is so full of other, important things. At the end of the day, who could bully their tired, over-worked brains into concentrating on the words in a page? (I won’t tell you that the truth is, it’s very easy, actually. Too easy.)

But don’t worry. One day, all of that will change. One day, as you give me that cheeky smile and I tell you to trust me, I will hand you That Book.

And when I do, it will be the beginning.