Desperation Reading

I was not always a responsible child. Well, maybe responsible isn’t the right word. I very definitely wasn’t an organized child. We lived across the street from the library, so I often checked out books and promptly lost them in my bedroom.

My mother suggested keeping library books on a special shelf in my bedroom. This was unconscionable, as the book shelf was across the room from my bed. I read my library books in bed every night until my mother forced me to turn out the light, then I flipped over and read at the foot of my bed so I could use the hall light after I was supposed to be asleep. The bookshelf next to my desk was for display purposes only.

It was also suggested that I write the dates my books were due on a calendar, but although this was a good idea, it was extra work and rarely happened. My library books were always returned late and often lost entirely for weeks on end. As a result, I was often banned from the library until I could pay up, but in retrospect this was one of the best things that could happen to me as a reader.

You see, being out of book and out of options—what I call a state of literary desperation—forced me to borrow a book from my older brother.

My brother read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and other “boy books” as I thought of them. There was no way that I would ever have picked out a book from that genre on my own, but it turned out, I liked some of them.  I read most of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, an assortment of science fiction books that I no longer remember the names of, and of course, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all the other books in that series. 

My son recently exhausted the list of available Harry Potter books, having finished the series, the supplemental textbooks, and the play. I was ready. The “out of book” time made him my literary hostage, just like I had been my brother’s. Luckily, I had already purchased Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in preparation for this moment. I knew he would never pick it our on his own.

My son wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but since he was out of things to read and it was bedtime, he was out of options.

“Just read it,” I told him, and left him alone with the book. Technically, I could have let him select his own e-book for his Nook, but I was not going to give up this opportunity to expose him to one of my childhood favorites. How else would he ever learn the secret to life, the universe, and everything?

The next day, he was jabbering on about the relative happiness of small pieces of paper and people who owned digital watches.

“Mama, I’ve never read anything like this before. Like, the point of view. It’s cool,” he said.

This is the value of being out of book and out of options, and why I don’t allow him to just go online and buy an e-book whenever he feels like it. Sometimes we need family members to get us out of our literary comfort zones and expose us to things we didn’t even know that we needed to read.


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