FIVE THINGS THAT MAKE BOOKS UNIQUE
Today I am welcoming to The Sunday Blog a very special guest blogger: my friend and colleague, Darrell Laurant, who describes himself this way on his own blog, Snowflakes in a Blizzard: “I am a 40-year veteran of journalism who retired two years ago to do freelancing full time. My first novel, The Kudzu Kid, was published last October, and lots of people are not buying it.”
Darrell is, in fact, doing a great deal more than “freelancing full time.” He is the creator and guiding spirit of Snowflakes, where he devotes his time to finding, encouraging, and recruiting authors who are having trouble, in today’s market, either finding a publisher or selling their books once they’re published. He selects two writers a week and features them and their books. These pages are beautifully laid out and the descriptions of the authors and their featured books are written by the authors themselves and reflect their voices.
My recently published book was a featured page on Snowflakes, and I was very excited at the quality of the spread. Everyone I know was impressed. In between putting these pages together, Darrell writes a regular “Weather Report,” in which he shares his own experiences in writing and publishing and the experiences of a variety of experts in the field. His generosity with his time and his knowledge is inspiring. He is helping writers to write and he is helping writers to be read.
He explains that he, “chose the name for this blog because getting noticed for a writer in this market–especially a new, unknown writer–is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard. This project is designed to help that.” You can take a look at the Snowflakes blog and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be making your list of books-to-read directly from the featured titles. Check it out at: https://snowflakesarise.wordpress.com.
For this week’s Sunday Blog, Darrell has taken off his writer’s hat and has written about his life as a reader.
Welcome, Darrell, to The Sunday Blog!
For a very long time, I got away from reading for pleasure. Sure, as a newspaper columnist, I read a lot, but it was almost exclusively magazines, websites and other newspapers. The goal was to ferret out specific information, and picking up a novel seemed a luxury.
Then I retired from the newspaper business, and my wife and I moved to Lake George, NY., with my 90-year-old mother so she could return to her house there. Within a few months, we were assaulted by our first Upstate New York winter in 40 years (we both had grown up there, but then moved south).
The upside was, as a homebound writer, I didn’t have to challenge the rather grim elements if I didn’t feel like it. The downside was a full-blown case of cabin fever. So I started reading again, novels as well as non-fiction, and I haven’t stopped since. In the process, I remembered some of the reasons why books are unique as entertainment.
1. Books add to your life experience, albeit vicariously.
No one has the time, the resources or the opportunity to sample everything that intrigues them, “bucket lists” notwithstanding. Nor can any one person possess all the skills and knowledge required to open every door that’s available. Through reading, however, we can incorporate these things into our memory banks through the words of someone else. This summer alone, for example, I have learned what it’s like to walk the teeming streets of urban India, survive in prison, struggle with bi-polar disorder, climb Mount Everest, and serve with an engineering unit in a combat zone. Chances are I will never do any of those things myself, but thanks to these authors, I don’t have to.
2. Books are bite-sized.
I always enjoy movies, but it’s hard to watch 10 minutes of one, then return to it over and over. Books, on the other hand, lend themselves to our time-challenged culture. Five minutes with a novel or work of non-fiction while grabbing a tuna sandwich or spending quality time in the bathroom, another 10 minutes the next day, and before you know it, you’ve digested the whole thing.
3. Books offer a one-way conversation.
If we admit it, most of us are not always good listeners. Sure, we might make the requisite eye contact and honestly try to listen to what other people are saying. At the same time, however, we often catch ourselves zoning out, thinking of what we’re going to say in response. Reading a book, you have to listen to the author without comment on your part — he or she can’t hear you, anyway.
4. Books force us to listen to new ideas.
This is a corollary to No. 3. When someone with whom we are talking espouses an idea or position with which we disagree, the tendency is to immediately counter with our own arguments. As a reader, however, we have no choice but to quietly ponder what is being said. Sometimes, in the process, we find our minds being changed — or, at the very least, we gain a bit of insight into why someone else thinks as they do.
5. It’s easy to find out if this is a book we don’t want to finish.
Because we are all different, and what we like is largely subjective, we will occasionally encounter books that simply don’t interest us, or turn us off for some reason. Unlike movies, where we tend to keep watching “in case this gets better,” you can sneak a peek ahead in a book to see if that will be the case. And if not, there is an infinite number of other books to read.