Loving the Book Sharers
By Rebecca Howard
Tulsa City-County Library
A couple of things of note happened in the reading world this month, and I’m not referring to the announcement of the finalists for the National Book Award (although that is pretty exciting and cause for increasing the length of my TBR list). The notable events I’m referencing involve what I lovingly refer to as “the book sharers.” These are the ones who always want to know what you are reading and want to share their current list of favorites with you, too. Book sharers are the best kind of people.
In October we lost Little Free Library founder Todd Bol. Bol built the first Little Free Library in tribute to his mother who was a school teacher and passionate reader. He filled this school-house replica with books and invited passersby to take or leave a book. These pop-up libraries became wildly popular, and, like any good librarian-at-heart, Bol shared his building plans with the world. This is how Bol’s tribute to his mother grew into Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries and throughout the U.S. There are 75,000 registered Little Free Libraries—at least two of which are in my neighborhood. Whenever I walk the dog, I stop to look at what my neighbors are reading, and I feel more connected to them. What a tremendous book-sharing legacy!
The second notable event this month was the Grand Finale of the geekiest PBS series ever (and that bar is pretty high), The Great American Read. Just seeing the website again makes my heart race. For me, the final result was less important than the national conversation about the transformative power of reading that was sparked by the show. We printed off copies of the list of 100 books for library customers and ordered additional copies of books that were suddenly in demand again.
This month, both of the book clubs I facilitate—one at Martin Regional Library and one at Magic City Books--read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Most of us had not read the book or had read it so long ago we had forgotten most of it. Seeing it profiled on The Great American Read inspired me to pick it up again, and I am so grateful that I did.
Hurston’s novel may not have been in print were it not for the efforts of another book-sharer, Alice Walker. Her 1975 Ms. Magazine article “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” spawned a resurgence of interest in Hurston’s work. Now rightfully considered one of the greatest novels in American literature, Their Eyes Were Watching Godwas almost entirely erased until Walker put the story in our hands. Can you imagine if we had missed out on prose like this?
When you share stories, you are essentially saying “I see you” to a fellow human. Many of us remember the first time a teacher, librarian, sibling, or friend placed a book lovingly, surreptitiously, or forcefully into our hands and said, “you have to read this!” That’s power, fellow book sharers. Keep sharing!