This post was inspired by this post about dying bookstores.
When I was younger, my dad worked downtown in Nashville, Tennessee. If he had something to do on the weekend, he would take me there and I would have to wait for him to finish his work. Afterwards, as a treat, he would take me to Davis Kidd, the biggest and most amazing bookstore I had ever seen.
It was huge. There were at least two floors of books, games, toys, and anything else you could dream of. I come from a family of readers. My mom, dad, and grandmother were all the biggest influences on me as a reader. My dad loves technical books, books on education, Tom Clancy, etc. My mom likes to read Christian fiction and self-help, but she will read anything I won’t shut up about. My Nana always talks about books with my mom, and they recommend things to one another.
Growing up with overflowing bookshelves, talk of books daily, and monthly trips to the biggest bookstore in Nashville all made me fall in love with books. Mom would take me to the used bookstore. We loved the smell of the store as we walked in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We would browse in different sections and meet back up at the front to make our purchases. My mom loves books on tape (now called audiobooks) and would always get hers at the library or the used book store because they were so expensive to buy.
Although I recieved my love of books and reading from my family, I also gained their bad habits. My mom often starts books without finishing them. My dad is worse. He will buy tons of books and never take them off the shelf or his nightside table. I definitely buy more books than I read, and I only finish books that completely consume me. Which is why I’m a little behind on my Goodreads challenge for 2014 (to read 50 books)… I started two books this year but only got halfway through before I put them down. However, those books were just not my cup of tea and I would rather read something I am totally engrossed in rather than waste my time with so-so books.
When I was in my teens, Davis Kidd moved locations to Green Hills. My friends and I would take the hour long drive on weekends to go shopping in Green Hills, but secretly we all just wanted to go to Davis Kidd. Granted, we did finally get a Barnes and Noble when I was in high school in my hometown, but nothing beat the immensity of Davis Kidd.
That bookstore is where everything happened for me. It’s where I found a signed copy of New Moon. I had never heard of Twilight before that, but it looked intriguing, and I couldn’t pass up a signed book. It was also where I stood in line for a good hour in a Hermione costume waiting for my 7th Harry Potter book at midnight. The next day I was in Ireland and it was my first trip overseas. I met a girl at my hotel who was from England who was reading her UK version of the book, and it was the first time I had ever made a friend while in a foreign country. My dad would still take me on free weekends during my high school days, and my friends and I were always looking for the opportunity to go visit.
Except they closed Davis Kidd when I was away at college.
It just feels wrong that all those memories were made at a place that doesn’t exist. But perhaps what is worse in my mind is the fact that Davis Kidd will no longer capture the hearts of young readers. Sure, there are still Barnes and Noble stores around, and perhaps a few of the used bookstores I used to frequent are still there. However, for the most part, Amazon has taken over to the point where we don’t even need to go to a store to buy a book. We just click a button on the computer or our phones or Kindles.
I do love my Kindle. Living abroad, it would be a mistake not to have one. It’s convenient and I love it. But Davis Kidd and those used bookstores fueled my passion for the written word. It was a social activity. My parents and I would discuss which books we bought and why. I would be introduced to new concepts and genres.
I know technology is making reading an even more social activity. I love Goodreads. It is so easy to learn about new books through YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, etc. And while I do appreciate the modernity of it all, I really miss being able to walk into a bookstore and feel as though all the world was at my fingertips.
The most important thing, however, is that we still teach our children and students the importance of reading.
I recently had a conversation with my friend who doesn’t like to read. In my opinion, she loves to read. She loves studying French, aerospace engineering, etc. She always shows me her textbooks and geeks out over them. And yet she doesn’t like to read.
As a person who could read at the age of three, who ran to the library for AR books a lunchtime, who read two reading levels above my grade all throughout school, and who asked for books for Christmas instead of toys, I can’t fathom someone who says they don’t like to read. To me, that’s like saying you don’t like to eat or go to to the pool on the first day of summer.
In explaning myself to her, I realized why I love books so much. Even if you strip away the coziness of the bookstore cafe, the smell of old books, the beautiful covers of the best sellers all lined up on the first shelf, I would still love reading. I would still love books.
The important thing isn’t how or where or what we read. It’s why.
I read to lose myself in another world. To realize that my problems are, mostly, insignificant. To learn empathy, patience, and kindness. To explore a new concept. I read in order to challenge my previous thoughts. To laugh, cry, or experience the feeling that someone else had the exact same thought as me.
This friend of mine who doesn’t read? In high school, I ran around for a week, following her with a Harry Potter book until she took it from me. She read it, made her entire family read it, and finished the entire series. How ironic that I shared with her a quote by J.K. Rowling during our conversation that goes, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
Reading, as well as traveling, help us expand our worldview. We become imaginative. We believe anything is possible. In a world that is usually calculating and wants to tell us that bad people are just bad and that’s that, I would rather live in a world of books.
I would rather read.