The piles of books around me keep growing – by my bed, on the shelf behind my desk, inside a cupboard that I try to ignore. Everywhere I look there are books that I want to read. Books friends have recommended, books I have read about in the newspaper, on Goodreads, at the library. Then of course, there are the classics – books I should read to be a well rounded, well educated person. Surely there are more than enough good books in the world to keep me reading for the rest of my life. With this abundance of good literature, why do we need more, why do people keep writing novels? In fact, isn’t the endless supply of new novels just contributing to our collective angst, the feeling that we will never be able to get through our reading lists, the growing piles by our bed? Perhaps.
But every once in a while, I come across an idea that I haven’t yet seen well explored in print, a story I want to read but haven’t yet found. As stories are simply reflections of our ever changing world and lives, so we will always need more stories, written in our current vernacular, about our current questions, technologies, crises.
I am working on one of those stories. I am asking the question; what happens when two people, who come from radically different cultures, with different ideas of justice and revenge, who marry out of a common love, must confront an act of violent injustice within their family? This will be another novel, an incremental addition to the piles of books we all face. But the world needs more stories. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I will be reading from my book tonight at Stories bookstore and café. Actually, by the time I get this posted, that should be past tense. Book readings are old hat for me now, I usually do two or three every night, but my audience is very small, two small boys to be exact. And I don’t usually read my own book, instead I am making my way through the children’s literature at our glorious public library. And I never need to publicize these readings, my children relish the nightly ritual, always showing up on time, ever requesting a third book.
I think back to the years that my mother read me books at bedtime. I remember when we graduated from picture books to chapter books. I learned from her that books opened up worlds upon worlds for readers, and I have grown up to model her habit of always having a book on hand. I cannot seem to travel further than a few blocks without a book in my bag, just as I could not seem to sleep without a bedtime story.
In the years when my children were small, I despaired that I had no time to read, until it occurred to me that I was reading dozens of books every week, though mostly of the Hop on Pop genre. Six years in, I can report that children’s literature is fantastic stuff, infinitely varied, amusing and enlightening for adults. The converse doesn’t work as well. The one night I tried reading my book of adult literature to my children – my eldest had proudly dipped into his piggy bank three times to legitimately purchase his own copy of my book (his younger brother told him to stop wasting his money) – they were both asleep before I could finish the second page.