Does Middle-Class America Still Have Books?

I don’t finish every book I begin. If it doesn’t hold my attention, I just close it and move on. Like my last book, which was written by a guy who provides long-distance moving services for families. In his introduction, in the midst of describing the packing process, he made an interesting observation about books:

“When I arrive at a residence to begin a move, assuming I’ve gotten into the driveway and close to the house, the first thing I’ll do is prep the residence. My crew and I will lay pads and then Masonite on any wood floors, carpet will be covered with a sticky durable film that gets rolled out, and we’ll lay out neoprene runners throughout the house. Banisters and doorways will be padded with special gripping pads. Anything in the house that might get rubbed, scratched, banged, dented or soiled is covered.Next we’ll go around with the shipper to see exactly what is going and what is staying. Then we’ll pack everything in the house into cartons.

I don’t love packing. It’s inside work, and mostly tedious. I do enjoy packing stemware, china, sculpture and fine art, but that stuff is getting rarer in American households. Books are completely disappearing. Remember in Fahrenheit 451 where the fireman’s wife was addicted to interactive television, and they sent firemen crews out to burn books? That mission has been largely accomplished in middle-class America, and they didn’t need the firemen. The interactive electronics took care of it without the violence.”

from “The Long Haul” by Finn Murphy, 2017

Of course the writer is talking about actual printed books that he no longer sees in the average American home. There are a lot of people that mostly read on Kindles, Nooks, other tablets, or their phone. But I think that most people that love to read have at least some printed books, as you get a much wider selection that way. It’s sad to hear that so many homes, middle-class or otherwise, have turned their back on reading in favor of movies and video-games.

 

 

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That Sweet Spot

2018-03-28 Raybrook library c

Not long ago, I was visiting an assisted living home and was getting a little tour of the place. To my surprise, they had a beautiful little library! There were custom-built bookshelves that had been painted white, a departure from the usual industrial-looking shelves found in most libraries. There was a librarian’s desk with a type-writer to make spine labels for the books, and a box to put your check-out cards in.

2018-03-28 Raybrook library f

Opposite the desk was an old-fashioned wooden return box with a mail-type slot that you could slide the books into. The paint around the slot was worn, and I could imagine the many books that had slid over the wood and rubbed off the surface. Behind the book drop was a table with books for sale, and some chairs to sit in while you browsed.

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Everything was neat and organized, as a good library should be. Not one thing was out of place! Ah, I thought, how wonderful it would be to explore the shelves, open a card catalog drawer, pull out a few books, sink into a comfy chair, and read in peace. But the tour moved on, so with reluctance I turned my back on the sweet spot of the library, and walked on.

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When Books Went To War – by Molly Guptill Manning (2014)

When Books Went To War

Did you know that during World War II, Europe lost approximately 100,000,000 printed books? It began with Hitler’s followers conducting book-burning events, targeting books by Jewish authors and books that held views different from their own. Then lists were made for the general public, advising them that they might not want to be caught during a home inspection with such books. The lists grew longer. Fear built up, and people began burning any of their own books that were deemed objectionable. As the Nazis bombed country after country, entire libraries were obliterated.

Adolph Hitler was an evil man, but he was not stupid. He realized the power of written words to motivate people, to educate and inform them, to influence the masses, and to lift discouraged spirits. Taking away books was just one of the ways he used to control and intimidate the conquered.

Then the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and was pulled into the war. As ordinary Americans were drafted and sent for training to become soldiers, librarians across the country came up with a brilliant idea. They wanted to supply all the troops with books to keep their morale up, and to give them a diversion from the horrors of war. Publishers, librarians, Congress and ordinary citizens all worked together to supply soldiers with books, and later to help bring books to Europe.

I absolutely loved this book! It’s rare now to find people that impassioned about books and reading (which is sad).  The letters that the soldiers wrote home, describing the relief that the books brought, were heart-warming. For many, it was a life-line that helped them keep their sanity. Men who had never had an interest in reading were totally hooked on reading by the end of the war. Of all the non-fiction books I have read this past year, this was among my favorite.

 

The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 6

 

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It’s something we take for granted – the ability to read. We use the gift of literacy to get a high school diploma then hopefully a college degree. We use it to communicate with co-workers every day  by e-mail. When we’re in need of a different car, we read safety reviews to help us in our decision. As our kids grow, we read up on how to raise them well. If our laptop starts malfunctioning, chances are we google the problem, and find solutions to get it working again. When the doctor gives us a diagnosis we don’t like, we research the condition online to get the full scope of the situation, and possible cures. And when we’re tired from a long day, some of us curl up with a good book and travel to the land of fiction.

Reading isn’t always a solitary experience. Some of my best memories from elementary school are when the teacher would read a book, a chapter each day (sometimes two if we begged enough). As a young adult, I and several friends read through books aloud in our apartment, taking turns reading. And in Bible study groups, we read from the Bible together.

Whatever your experience is with reading – whether you love it or struggle with it – it still is a gift to be grateful for.

 

Great Reading Month

Summer Reading
Photo credit: http://www.christianstudentsoncampus.com/

July was a really, really good reading month for me. I just couldn’t seem to stop reading, and whipped through nine books, doing book reviews on seven of them. Books from my local library, downloadable audio-books that I listened to on my phone, even one book that was fetched from the Melcat state-wide lending program. Yes, it was a very good month!

The only thing wrong with a great reading month like July is when it ends. Tuesday morning I turned over the kitchen calendar page to August. Suddenly we’re starting to focus on the kids going back to school, and doing those projects we’ve been meaning to do this summer. In a few weeks, the easy-going lifestyle of summer will switch to a more rigid routine. Routine’s not a bad thing, and keeps us from inertia. But as I like to say, there’s always time to squeeze in a good book.

March Is National Reading Month!

Book Knowledge Tree NS
Photo credit:
http://www.thebusymomsdaily.com/2014/03/national-reading-month-giveaway.html

While volunteering in our local school library yesterday morning, I found out that March is National Reading Month, although I can’t honestly tell you who declared it so. Was it the American Library Association, the Head Start program, the Department Of Education, the president of the United States? But does it even matter who started it?

It’s still cold and dreary outside, so what could be better than curling up with a book, or listening to an audio-book while you’re driving, or laughing over a book with a small child? Look around your house for a book to read – or re-read one of your old favorites. If you can’t find one, log on your library’s website, and check out their e-book selection. If you want to outright buy yourself a book, there’s always Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook selections, or an actual walk-in bookstore. Whatever way you choose to do it, enjoy reading this month!

 

Personalized Book Suggestions

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photo credit: Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/05/health-benefits-reading_n_4081258.html

Believe it or not, I often have a terrible time finding a book to read. Sounds crazy, right? There’s so much to choose from now, and maybe that’s part of the problem. We live in a time when tens of thousands of books are available – at multiple public libraries, at the download section of the library’s website, school/college libraries, amazon’s kindle store, audible.com, and regular bookstores. In this glut of books, I have noticed two things:
1, there are a lot of books using the same tired story-line, and 2, a lot of books are just plain trash with authors competing for the raunchiest details.

I often start three or four books before finding one that I actually like. I’ve looked at book recommendations online, but there’s so many of them that it’s overwhelming. Also, what one person calls a must-read book might be a total bore for someone else. So a week ago I signed up for Personalized Picks at my local library. After completing a detailed survey, they e-mailed a suggestion list of ten books. It looks promising, and I grabbed a few books from the library.

So if you’re having the same problem I am, consider getting a personalized list from your local librarian!