Last night, in celebration of homeliness, I sat in a comfy chair, with a good light shining over my left shoulder and I read a book. The first chapter of “Linnets and Valerians” to be exact. There was some soft old jazz on the radio. The house was quiet.
I worked for about fifteen years in a bookshop. Those of you who are avid readers may think that is a dream job and in many ways it was. But not in the way you might think. It made me stop reading for pleasure.
I taught myself to speed-read many of the new arrivals so that I could give our customers a sense of what they were getting. They trusted us to steer them towards books they’d like and away from ones that weren’t to their taste. They knew we knew what they liked, our regular customers. And we did.
It started with fiction. I found I couldn’t read it for fun, not even authors I really liked. Non-fiction was safe for a while because most of our customers were looking for recommendations on fiction. But after a decade, all reading was work. I could write reviews–good and thorough reviews–quickly and efficiently, though I had spent little time with what makes reading a book an experience of beauty and power.
I haven’t worked in the shop since 2012 and I easily got back my ability to read non-fiction. It helps in my own work, of course, so I enjoy it as well as benefitting from ingesting the materials.
So my homely goal for now is to re-learn the pleasure of reading a good story, of getting lost in strong characters that become people I know.
Soft jazz, a good light, a well-loved old book-friend. I think I can do this.