You Can’t Judge a Book (Event Attendee) By Its Cover

It’s not often that I find myself the youngest person in a room. Yet, that’s just where I found myself last night.

I attended a local literary event where Richard Russo was appearing. As I looked around the packed room of at least 100 attendees, I was surprised to realize I was one of only a handful under 40 and of those, I think several of them worked at the particular sponsoring venue.

I was bothered by this. I’ve attended events here with other authors that certainly skewed to a younger audience. Why was a Pulitzer Prize winner not drawing a similar crowd? Is it because his characters are older? He’s older? Did the venue not advertise this particular event to younger audiences? Are younger readers only reading “chick lit?”

Of course, I’m “younger” and enjoy Russo’s books and vivid characters, as well as “chick lit” and non-fiction titles. I had heard about the event via a local report on NPR and on twitter. Perhaps this is more a commentary on me being an old soul in a 33-year-old body than an indication of a larger trend?

Has our education system trained us to read for work, not pleasure? Has the proliferation of media options created a generation of non-readers because we’re too busy skimming our blog readers, twitter feeds, email or catching up on Top Chef via our DVRs so we can finally put in that Mad Men season two DVD from Netflix? Are books just not cool? Or are events like these simply not a high priority for busy twenty and thirty-somethings (an argument I can certainly relate to)?

I hope it’s more a challenge for the event planners of the world than a commentary on the state of the American reader.

As we analyzed ways to cut back on our discretionary spending back when I decided to stop working and stay home full time with peanut, buying books was definitely something I had a hard time justifying. Instead, I headed over to our local library and got a library card – my first since I was a child and actually did research for high school term papers in our public library stacks surrounded by Encyclopedia Britannica and microfiche machines.

What a wonderful decision that ended up being for this busy mom. I can go online and put my name on the wait list for new releases and pick them up when available. I have discovered less recent books that line the shelves just waiting for someone to find them and crack their plastic covered spines again to spill their secrets. I can spend at least an hour watching peanut randomly select books from the shelves and bins, filling bags to bring home of new books that capture his attention for the rest of the day and easily become his favorites in the nighttime rotation for the month they are ours. Seeing peanut’s face light up at the mere mention of going to the library makes me proud. I hope I can continue to nurture this love of books in my boys as they grow.

I’m not even sure what my point is with all this ranting about reading. All I know is we’re a family who loves books and I hope you all do, too. There is nothing more satisfying to me than peanut bringing me a book and asking me to read to him in the middle of the day – and not just because that means we get to sit still for a few minutes.

And, while I’m at it, if you haven’t read Empire Falls, you really should.

Okay, I’m done. Or as they say in books:

THE END.

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