It’s easy to fall out of reading. Almost too easy.
Perhaps life got in the way. Perhaps you put your reading on pause to accommodate a major event. Perhaps your schedule shifted and you don’t know how to get back into reading.
I’ve been there. I’ve also been able to jump back in.
It’s that time of year again! The sun is out, school is out and books come out from their hiding places in your closet or library shelves.
That’s right—summer reading clubs make reading cool again.
Summer means watching the waves roll in at the beach, licking ice cream from your fingertips and sipping sun-kissed iced tea.
Last summer, I boasted about my commitment to summer reading clubs and how it didn’t take time away from my writing.
This summer, I’m telling you that I’m not signing up.
Don’t worry. I didn’t become a hater of reading in the last 365 days. And I didn’t change my opinion about summer reading clubs going hand-in-hand with writing projects.
What changed was my location.
Why I Love Summer Reading Clubs
Last summer, I lived in a summer reading club wonderland. All my friends signed up. Actually, it seemed like the whole town was in the race.
We talked about how many books we’ve read over potluck dinners and dived into discussions about what we have read over card games.
After every five books read, I’d be entered into a raffle with high-stake prizes. And I got to take home a free book home just for signing up.
Since last summer, I was uprooted from that town and I moved 2,000 miles away.
Between moving old boxes, starting new jobs, learning new streets, shoveling new sidewalks and watching new plants grow—I was always reading.
And I was always visiting my local library. I dropped by weekly for new books and DVDs. Weekend excursions included exploring the other branches. All my friends were avid library readers and lunch breaks meant stopping by the downtown location.
Why I’m Not Signing Up For Summer Reading Club
As summertime rolled into my life, I took a peak at my library’s summer reading club. And I was severely disappointed.
For reading five books, you win $1 off at the library used bookstore. That’s right: I had the chance to win a coupon.
Comparing the two summer reading clubs side by side, this new club was like going to a rusted town fair after a weekend at Cedar Point.
As for my reading friends, they have all moved away from this city to grow their lives elsewhere. New adventures means new summer reading clubs that I can’t join.
So if the prize isn’t enticing and there isn’t any friendly competition within my social circles, then why even join?
My Summer Reading Club Substitution
Of course I love to read. I won’t stop reading because I don’t sign up for my local summer reading club.
I’ll just have to make my own competition.
If your local summer reading club doesn’t excite you—or doesn’t even exist—it doesn’t mean that the competition is over. It just means that you have to invent one worth joining.
Starting a summer reading club within your social group or your community isn’t too hard to do. All it takes is commitment, vision and a few phone calls to set it up.
As for me, I’m a pretty self-competitive person. For every five books, I’ll treat myself to a special dinner out.
And I’ll always update my Goodreads reading list.
Why (or why not) are you joining a summer reading club this year? Share your story below.
Since the ninth grade, school instructs us to read the classics, books knighted as literary genius for generations. Professors build careers around talking about one writer or a handful of paperbacks. And we’re taught not to criticize the novels or essays, but instead to search for symbolic evidence as to why these books are perfect.
In other words, we learn how to kiss the butts of writers, many already long dead.
It’s not that these writers don’t deserve a lot of cred. Some of the greatest books I’ve read are cliché classics. Just look at my Goodreads.
So how are my reading habits different than an English class syllabus? Because I don’t read the books to worship the writers.
In school, we’re assigned to write papers as to why the symbolism spoke to the greater good or why the writer reinvented the use of X, Y, Z since the Cave Ages.
You know, the obvious stuff.
But classic books aren’t holy texts. And these writers aren’t gods.
I’m going to say it: We need to stop all this writer worship.
Wouldn’t it be great to instead have a classroom discussion challenging the common opinion about the text? To say that the protagonist is really evil, that the (pages and pages of) scenery description doesn’t contribute much to the plot, or that the book really just sucks.
We’ve all wanted to say that in a Lit course.
It’s not a constructive use of time to list why the writer is great. That centralizes our focus on the writer, not the story. That elevates the writer’s status in our mind and, consequently, lowers our own evaluation of our own writing skills.
Instead, we should focus our time on looking at the writing as a story. Does the story have a well-developed plot? Are the characters fully formed? Does the dialogue support the story? Do the descriptions, from the setting to the actions, contribute to the plot and the characters?
This is what I do when I read the classics. In fact, it’s why I read. I study the structure of the story. I take the writer (briefly) out of the equation while I evaluate what’s working and not working in the story. That is the only way I will learn how to refine my own work as a writer.
A writer great at their craft should be respected, not worshipped. And a great writer that you respect should be by your own choice, not because your teacher said so.
What do you think? Do you think writer worship is a waste of time? Share your opinions below.