“Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.”
“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin.
I love these quotes by Ann Patchett, author of, The State of Wonder; Bel Canto; Commonwealth and many other books. She is also the owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville Tennessee where she devotes her time (when she’s not writing) to promoting reading.
In a world filled with sound-bites and simplistic responses to abstract and complicated issues, how refreshing it is to know that people still read, think, and feel. Readers know that it is through experiencing another person’s inner world that we grow to be the best kind of humans we can be – compassionate and empathetic. Reading fiction (or autobiography) is especially compelling because as you enter the world of the story, you also enter into another’s life experience. When the writing is good, the experience is extraordinary - expanding our world, piquing our curiosity, softening our hearts, and getting us to think.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, some 76% of American adults ages 18 and older said that they had read at least one book in the past year. That’s good but not good enough, because the flip side of that means that 24% of Americans did not read even one book in the past year! Why not?! Money is not required to read, the free public libraries in the United States are extraordinary. Not every country in the world has library systems with free and open access to books and information as we do here. No time? Try listening to a book during your commute, or try getting away from all the screens in your life. Voilá, more time! Not a great reader? No worries, the best way to become a better reader is to read more.
At the Islip Public Library our shelves are packed with books, and if you want to read something that we do not own or is already checked out, we will get it for you. In Suffolk County alone there are over 60 public libraries! A delivery system operates 6 days each week and delivers books back and forth among the libraries. Your (free) Islip Public Library card provides you with free access to some of the collections in all of these libraries, and to everything in our collections here at the Islip Library. If you prefer to read on an electronic device, you can use your library card to download ebooks and audiobooks onto that. Yes, downloads are free too! Don’t know what to read? Ask a librarian at the Reference Desk. We will share our personal recommendations with you as well as lists of award winning titles and authors.
So get a library card if you don’t already have one, bring it with you to the library, and for goodness sake, just check out a book! Sit down and read it today! Further test your powers of concentration - put your phone away, step away from the television, the radio, the video games, the tablet, the computer. Good for you - you’re reading a book!