Last week, I wrote about ideas for book groups during the holiday season. No matter how you spend that meeting, it’s important, it’s mindful, it’s wise as another year of reading comes to an end, to celebrate and acknowledge your efforts.
I’ve been thinking about why people choose to give their time to the rather unusual pursuit of gathering together to discuss the solitary activity of reading. Sometimes it is joked that book groups are just a veiled excuse for a social outlet, that no one reads the book, or that the least interesting part of the meeting is when we feel required to talk about the novel. Certainly we’ve all had busy months where we couldn’t finish a book and nervously made such jokes about ourselves. But deep down it isn’t true. We read!
Some people–whether because of a failure in education, a short-sighted set of values, or a life experience that sadly never led them to the epiphany that comes when we read something that changes us–cannot see that reading is more than a diversion, a way for idle people to pass time. Feel sorry for these critics and the empty spot they carry inside; take their harsh comments, smile, and ply them with another great book; but never for a moment believe them.
Membership in a book group is a chance to join together with others in celebration of a cherished activity, an activity that gives its practitioners a broader understanding of the world; that nourishes our sense of empathy; that quietly fills our minds with a wealth of practical knowledge in fields we will never directly experience; that builds the strength of heart that can only come when we know we are not alone in feeling our greatest frailties, our starkest fears, but also in our capacity to find inner strength in the face of adversity. These are just a few of the gains we reap from the wonderful vicarious experience of reading books.
So as you travel on a cold winter evening to the last book group of your year, make sure you take a few moments to celebrate with your friends, your combatants, your fellow travelers of the page. You are sharing one of the great triumphs of the human spirit. You are supporting each other in one of the best ways you can spend your precious time. Reading is important work.