By November 24, 2011 3 Comments Read More →

A Reader’s Thanksgiving

The book world is a whirl right now, full of new developments and unsure futures for the familiar components of its culture. On bad days it can induce insomnia and terror in a book lover, especially those of us who have tied our careers to books. But as we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, here are three things for which I can honestly give thanks.

I’M THANKFUL FOR BOOK JOURNALISM THAT IS STILL ABOUT BOOKS

I’m softening to the concept of electronic books. I won’t be a heavy user of them anytime soon, but I do understand why some readers make them a choice. I’ve accepted that there’s a certain inevitability to their adoption and that they won’t completely destroy literary culture. But I’ll also know that something is not right in book world as long as such a large percentage of the articles about books involve turf battles between huge companies instead of stylistic jousts between authors, reviews of competing technologies instead of the books themselves, and inflated publicity about devices outpacing inflated publicity for new authors. One of the reasons that I choose to write for Booklist is that the bulk of its coverage is still about books themselves, not the method one employs to read them. Let that ever remain so, and let other book journalists follow suit. We’re more than another business story.

I’M THANKFUL FOR THE COMPANY OF OTHER READERS

Whether it’s through reading other authors, journalists and bloggers, through talking with readers in my library work or in my book groups, or through sharing time digitally, my life is constantly enriched by discussing reading with others. It’s not surprising that many of the Internet’s most successful social networking sites that focus on a particular activity are based on reading, and these sites make the company of other readers more readily available to us than ever before. I hope that even Amazon will remember that this sharing between readers brought them their initial success, not the promotion of any particular product.

How many other endeavors give us so much to talk about? My reading friends help me discover new books, find new perspectives in my reading, and reminisce about all of the good times I’ve had with books. You turn what could be a solitary activity into something that has an impact on my social life, my psychological well-being, even my economic success. Sharing my reading has expanded my circle of friends beyond a scale I would ever have imagined, and for that I’m thankful, I’m grateful, I’m lucky.

I’M THANKFUL FOR THE DEPTH OF OUR LITERARY HISTORY

I still mourn the demise of most newspaper coverage of books. The quality of most print editions is clearly not what it once was. Big bookstore chains are closing their doors. Writers are unsure of their status and their livelihood, forced to become part of the “stables” of brand name authors to find an entry. Even libraries–an institution I would have thought invulnerable just a few short years ago–are endangered by a demand to reinvent ourselves while producing more different formats from smaller budgets and less cooperation from the book industry.

But we’ll survive. The sheer momentum of book culture is one of the keystones of history. If new books were to disappear tomorrow, we could all read comfortably through a long life from a wide selection of choices that would remain relevant, that would continue to be able to satisfy almost every intellectual and emotional need. And the existence of this wonderful canon of great books–and by “great books” I mean those aimed not just at the head but at the heart, the soul, the groin, and all five senses–this wonderful canon will guarantee that new books will not disappear. New writers will be inspired to create a steady stream of marvels to satisfy future readers. We’re storytellers and we’re story sharers, and these stories make us better creatures. For that, we should all be grateful.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

3 Comments on "A Reader’s Thanksgiving"

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  1. bkclub@live.com' Alice says:

    Oh wow! Great article. And so very true!

    I just love good ole’ books and am also still very far off reading from an electronic device for leisure.
    I do like the way technology has made book reviews easier to find – this site being a good example.

    Another of my favorite book review sources is a radio show called The Book Report. Check out http://bookreportradio.com for info on broadcasting stations and schedules to catch the show.

  2. I’m thankful for such a thoughtful post.

  3. hal930@gmx.com' Barry says:

    I recently received my Kindle Fire. It can never replace the feel of a real book but there are some great advantages. For long flights I can read a book and then also listen to one, or to my stored music, and play some games, all on one device.
    I agree with the above comment about the book report by Elaine Charles. Well worth a listen

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