In case you’re resolving to get more books into your life this coming year, I list below nine ways to do so in 2009. Many are rather new, made possible by technology. Two are old, although powerful in ways most of us fail to truly understand.
No. 1: Read at least one book electronically
Buy or borrow an Amazon Kindle, a Sony eBook or similar device (there will be some new models out this year) and read at least one book this way in 2009. Most early adopters like the devices and many have reported that they read more books because of the ease of carrying a little magic book that can be almost any book. See if it liberates you, too.
No. 2: Make your personal library of favorite books virtual by uploading your titles into one of the social networking sites for booklovers
Perhaps even more important than the virtual book is the virtual library. This has changed my reading life, as I described last year with my use of Shelfari. Don’t underestimate how transformative this can be. It’s not just the reviewing of your books as you go, or the chance to rate them, but the tagging of them. These clouds help you discover patterns arising from groups of books in a way that was nearly impossible without this software. And I haven’t even touched on the social benefits. Vacation is a good time to upload your library, title by title, which is fun and revealing. (By the way, this is free.)
No. 3: Interact with readers online
So much of reading is sharing your thoughts with others. It’s never been easier to find people you want to talk to and books you want to talk about. Shelfari, Good Reads, Library Thing, Visual Bookshelf in Facebook—all are dedicated to communing with books, and hence, with ideas. There are other ways as well. Email an author on his or her website. Google a book title and you’ll find blog posts you can respond to.
No. 4: Make at least one an audiobook
Audiobooks are only a generation old yet are one of the gifts of our age and getting better every year. See what’s happening at Audiofile magazine, lovingly edited by Robin Whitten. Sign up with iTunes-enabled Audible, founded by the farseeing Donald Katz. Check out Recorded Books, where studio director Claudia Howard works her casting magic with some of the world’s best narrators. I’ve been proselytizing for years now and can report success even with some quite stubborn visual readers. Here are some quick tips:
1. Try great stories, mostly fiction or narrative nonfiction, like David McCullough.
2. Listen when washing dishes, folding laundry, washing cars, anything mindless but handful.
3. Don’t think driving is the only time; it’s not even necessarily the best time for audiobooks.
4. If you don’t love your first listen, try two more before giving up. Even if you think audiobooks aren’t for you, even if you know you prefer reading with your eyes rather than your ears, please give audio a chance. Homer would approve, and Shakespeare, too.
No. 5: Relish the reverse boovie
Watch the movie first, and then read the book. Why do it backwards? Because it can be better this way. Ideal reverse boovie candidates are highly rated movies adapted from big novels. The more you like the movie, the more you’re likely to love the depth and dimension waiting for you in the original book. I know watching the movie first sounds strange, but don’t reject it just because it seems wrong. Lots of things seemed wrong in the beginning, like heavier-than-air flying machines.
No. 6: Visit a library and take prisoners
Especially if you haven’t been in a while, browse around and select five books that look interesting. Your public library is a special social institution, not at all pervasive in the world, and paid for by your United States of America tax dollars. Librarians have been building it expecting you to come. Seize the day, and here’s how:
Get yourself a library card, check out those five promising books, take them home with the expectation that you’ll taste all five…but finish only one. At home, begin each book and try to make it to page 50 or so. If you can put it down, do so. If you can’t put it down, don’t. Finishing one of the five is your benchmark for success. You will have not only enjoyed a brand new book in its entirety—a book you’ll likely be raving about to others—but you’ll have practiced two important lessons for those leading their well-read lives: using a library well and giving up on books you don’t love. Therein lies a path for finding those books that will change your life utterly.
No. 7: Visit a bookstore and take note of a changing landscape
We’ve passed the peak of the golden age of a bookstore on every corner. But many of those still with us have become the village wells of their non-virtual communities. Go enjoy them. Browse, chat with the booksellers, get the physical feel for books that’s still hard to achieve online. It’s as much about the experience as it is about the books.
No. 8: Read a book with a friend
Have one of your best friends choose a book for the two of you to read. Then get together in person and have something else to talk about, and grow your friendship yet more. Do the same with a special teenager you know—only this time, you choose. I’m recommending our Levenger Press book, A Boy at the Hogarth Press, a charming coming-of-age memoir from an earlier age.
No. 9: Read a book aloud to a loved one, or have them read to you
This is as old as human language—storytelling, that is. It’s at the very heart of what it means to be human, and it’s why so many older people cherish it. It’s not because they have trouble reading, which they may, but because they realize in their bones that hearing another human tell them a tale is one of the rooms of heaven.
Any one of these suggestions could be the key that unlocks the magic door for you to take your life to a higher plane—not only in 2009, but in every year following.
No. 10: Now it’s your turn