The Reading Bridge

On Friday, my family and I visited Long Beach Public Library’s main branch. While we visit our own branch often, it’s tiny by comparison. I thought—correctly!—my sons would be wowed by the main branch’s size, in space and number of books.

I checked out a couple of Raina Telgemeier graphic novels in Spanish. I read Ghosts on Saturday. I was so touched by it, I stopped by the bookstore on a Sunday to buy it in English. I wanted to share it with my family, both as someone who loves both Dia de los Muertos and someone whose physical life was cut short by Cystic Fibrosis.

The book is simply … breathtaking.

While at the bookstore, I looked at a copy of Telgemeier’s Sisters. A little girl nearby said. “You shouldn’t read that unless you’ve read Smile. It won’t make sense!” She added that they were so good, I should definitely read both.

I told her I had Smile at home, and just read another Telgemeier book.

”I love her!” the girl said. I replied that I was now extra excited to read Smile, and thanked her for her recommendation.

”You’re welcome!” she replied as I began walking away.

I smiled all the way to the cash register. While many perceive reading as a solitary activity, I see little ways—like this—every day that books connect me both to others and to the varied ways we experience this world.

The act of reading is solitary in some ways, but a bridge in so many others.

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Recovery

A few weeks ago, a friend and I sat on my couch and had a long, meandering chat about nothing and everything.

Somehow, our conversation turned to a point where I explained how loneliness is at the core of much suffering in the United States. Ours is a society that has elevated consumption over connection, competition over collaboration. We buy what we can buy and beat whom we can beat, only to discover there’s an ache inside that neither trophies nor toys can touch.

After I’d finished trying to explain this, my friend said I might enjoy Russell Brand’s Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions. She said that he and I shared similar perspectives, and that she found solace in his words. Continue reading “Recovery”

Deeper than the weather

A few weeks ago, a meticulously coiffed older woman rang up my newest order of books. “You always buy the most eclectic books!” she exclaimed, beaming.

Yesterday, I looked at the cover of one of my  newer-still books while the same woman rang up others. “Oh, that’s the image from a podcast I just subscribed to!” I exclaimed at the peculiar image.

The woman glanced at the cover, smiled, and said, “I wouldn’t expect anything ordinary from you!” She quickly added, “I mean that in a good way.”

“That’s how I took it,” I said, returning her smile.

Before I’d even reached the register yesterday, I’d already had a couple of delightful conversations with bookstore folk. One older man was especially, fabulously delighted I’d bought a book called The Rainbow Goblins when my first child was a baby.

Last night, I got the chance to recommend two books to a woman at a Long Beach Progressive Revolution meeting. It was such a joy talking politics, books, and hope!

This morning, I stood in a coffee shop line (for a decaf; none more caf for me, ever) and pulled out of my purse one of yesterday’s books. Another woman in line saw its cover and asked me if I’d mind describing it. She was intrigued by the title and the image of a lone horse galloping through waves.

I told her I’d never usually read this kind of stuff, making a face when I said “this kind.” I said that I’d picked up The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself because it came recommended by someone I admire, and that I was glad I’d bought it. Just reading one page in line, I explained, had eased my heart immensely. It left me feeling better prepared for the day.

She thanked me for sharing and said she needed something just like to ease her heart.

Then, walking into my office building a few minutes later, I shifted my book and coffee to hold a door open for someone just behind me. “You’re my superhero!” he exclaimed. “Always reading so many things while you walk.”

I laughed and said my current book is rejuvenating compared to the depressing material I usually read. He smiled and wished me a good day.

Not too many hours later, I spotted my manager walking back from lunch with a book in his hands. I grinned, delighted to see someone else too caught up in reading to stop reading one second too early.

Once again, I assert that reading isn’t always a lonely thing. Sometimes, in the right time and place, it can be an invitation to connect at a level deeper than the weather.