We spend our lives chasing something: an idea, a goal, an ambition. Getting lost in the obsession to accomplish that goal is one of the greatest failures that comes with getting older. When I was young, I would go to the library every week, check out six books, and finish one before I even got to my house. Now, I read maybe three or four novels for fun in a year. The magic of reading has faded away and I find myself wondering when it became a chore rather than a distraction.
While cleaning my room this past winter, I found a book tucked under my dresser. It was one of the many I have laying around my room, yet this one struck me as different. This was the one book I never intended to get.
Not long ago, I was on a train alone and sitting beside a stranger. The woman had been engrossed in a book for the whole hour I’d been beside her, not taking her eyes off the pages for even a minute, laughing and shaking her head. At one point, I could see her wiping her face with her sleeve as she tried to hold in her crying. Eventually, she finished and turned to me, with tears still falling from her red-stained eyes and apologised for being ‘the weird woman on the train’. To me, she had no reason to apologise. Instead, we spent the next few minutes talking about books until she suddenly offered her book to me.
That book was A Man Called Ove, but even if it had been a children’s picture book, I would have been compelled to read it, and it would have still meant more to me after meeting her than it ever could have otherwise. I will never see that woman again, but I will forever be grateful for the magic she shared with me and the excitement from reading she resurrected within me. Every page reminded me of the woman, and I found myself wondering if I was reading one of the lines that made her laugh. This woman on the train, whose name I never got, decided that she loved this book so much that she had to share the experience with a complete stranger.
Why isn’t this more common?
We share our favourite songs when we blast music in the kitchen cooking with our family. We share our favourite TV shows when our friends come over to hang out. So why don’t we do that with our favourite books? A book, with a little bit of imagination, has the ability to transport us to another world, or to teach us about a time and place we could never hope to experience. Isn’t the little bit of adventure and life we find in books worth the time or energy it takes to read and share them?
Do we lose interest in books as we get older, or is it simply that we lack the time? A study conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2019 came to the conclusion that 24 percent of American adults haven’t read a book, in part or full, over the past year. That number shocked me. As someone for whom reading was always crucial and enjoyable, it saddens me to know that there were so few people who choose to read a book. Would that number rise if we talked more about and shared the books we read?
Next time you see a bookstore, stop in, look around, find something you will enjoy. And when you’re done, why not pass it along?