The Happily Bookish Challenge

Michelle Anne Schingler, a former librarian and Hebrew school teacher, is the managing editor at Foreword Reviews. Her days are books, books, books; she knows how lucky that makes her.  Twitter: @mschingler

Since the mid-eighties, I have been involved in a passionate relationship with books. They are still my most reliable companion. They work extremely hard at their various tasks–informing me, entertaining me, expanding my horizons. They have been by me in triumph and tragedy. I am proud to be theirs.

If this mushy bragging seems oddly familiar to you, it’s probably because your social media feeds lately have looked something like mine–though, in place of books, you likely saw “spouse,” or husband or wife.

Couples beaming before sunsets, hamming it up in tropical locales, dipping each other on the dance floor—what fresh hell is this?! You usually have to wait for a high school reunion or a Thanksgiving dinner to be so aggressively confronted with your own singlehood.

Not any longer, thanks to Happily Married Week. And the best thing about Happily Married Week? It’s been turned into chain mail, of sorts, and is now destined to live forever. Throngs of gushy photos will traipse across your screen, in saccharine succession, and you’ll only be offered relief from each parade of joyousness after the full, prescribed seven days have passed.

(Perhaps this is what I get for cheating on my books with the internet.)

I do not begrudge people their happiness in general, but, c’mon: this is over the top. And what about those of us who are happily UN-married, and who will so never be tagged in to show off ourselves?

I’m proposing Happily Bookish Week in response.

We’ve been deep in reader territory for a long time ourselves, right? That’s certainly worth a little bragging on—that, for years and years, we’ve been able to turn to books to provide us with empathy, passion, and escape. So let’s boast a bit about it.

You’ve run through a field of daisies with a book in hand, right? Have collapsed laughing and breathless onto a blanket in a sunlit field and allowed Whitman to fall open in your lap? You’ve flipped through Chabon on a lovely beach vacation, I just know it, or have celebrated your library card anniversary at a ski resort over champagne, with an impossibly picturesque scene at your back. And there MUST be photographic evidence.

So let’s flaunt it. Books have been there for us, and that’s a relationship we’re never going to let go or take for granted. We Happily Bookish ones know: they’re there to curl up with in bed when you’re sick. They can’t make you chicken soup, but one or two of them can probably coach you through it.

They’re ready and waiting when you need to escape to far off places, and at a cost far below that of an (emergency?) second honeymoon. They help you to grow, forwarding ideas that surprise and challenge you. They travel light—unlike your spouse, fitting neatly in most purses.

They never interrupt conversations, they never embarrass you in front of your friends, and they never make you feel self-conscious in those very ugly hanging around the house drawstring pants, which, in fact, are perfectly suited to a little quality time spent with them.

Books are forever.

So I’m challenging you, my fellow readers, to combat this–calling it like it is–passive single shaming, this ostentatious parade of perfect, traditional relationships (you’re not getting any younger, you know!), with a little celebrating of our own.

Let’s be Happily Bookish–for a week, for a month, into perpetuity.

Starting my own celebration off: here’s me at 21 with Books, celebrating 19 some odd years. ‘Twas a good day for Books and me. We–well, I could say more, but it’s poor taste to flip and tell.



I pass the challenge on to you.