Yesterday was National Read A Book Day.
Well, Kelly, you might ask, did you read a book?
Well, I might respond, is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Do humans need oxygen to survive? Are we still trapped in a hell dimension?
Which is to say, of course I read a book.
I’ll say a bit about the book I read, but first I want to draw your attention to two delightful essays on books by two fantastic authors. The first is this Twitter thread by Chuck Wendig (you might remember him from the whole gay Star Wars character thing right before The Force Awakens came out, and also that he gives zero fucks about your bigotry).
EVERY BOOK IS A DOORWAY OF ESCAPE, A PORTAL LIKE THAT CABINET THAT TOOK THOSE WEIRD BRITISH KIDS TO THE FANTASY LAND OF GOATS AND JESUS LIONS OR WHATEVER.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) September 6, 2018
It’s a long thread, which you should read, but here is my favorite tweet:
p.p.s. you know who DOESN’T read books?
our dipshit fuck president
that’s how you know that books are good, they would melt his circus peanut fingers like candlewax if he even touched one
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) September 6, 2018
Ah, yes. So true, Chuck. So true.
But on a more serious note, books are magical portals of escape! It’s like having a space ship in your pocket. Or a time machine. Or a jet. Or all of these things, and then some.
And more than that, books are vitally important repositories of knowledge, wisdom, and stories–you know, those things that we’ve been making up since the dawn of time? Those things that form our worldviews, our mythology, our religions? Those foundational elements of our very society and humanity?
Neil Gaiman, whose work I’m 100% confident saying saved my fucking life in high school, wrote an essay on the importance of books, libraries, and librarians. Artist Chris Riddell illustrated it, and you should read the whole thing, but I want to put the following image in a frame. Or get it tattooed on my arm. Something.
The text in the image reads: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. We all have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is, individuals are the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
I was a miserable teenager. Depressed. Self-harming. Not *quite* suicidal, but man did I think a lot about suicide. Multiple English teachers took me aside to have conversations because they were worried I was going to hurt myself. They were right to worry. Thankfully, I had books. Books saved me. Those teachers saved me. Libraries saved me.
Books are fucking important, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they probably voted for our dipshit fuck president and you should probably run very far away from them
So back to what I was reading on National Read A Book Day.
Yesterday, I finished a re-read of Batman: Hush, which could easily go on my list of ten most important comics. I don’t remember the exact issue I started buying Batman month-to-month, but it was somewhere in the late 500s, and the Hush storyline started with #608, so it came pretty early in my Batman issue reading life. I’d read lots of Batman trade paperbacks before, but this was the first (Batman) storyline I remember reading piece by piece each month.
Reading Hush now took me right back to being an awkward goth teenager, convinced I was in love with a boy who certainly didn’t feel the same way, writing bad poetry about death, and escaping it all by submersing myself in novels and comic books.* I was prepared for my memory to not live up to the reality, but actually Hush is a pretty damn solid Batman story. It’s got everything a good Batman tale should have: Batman/Catwoman romantic tension, action-packed fights, a mystery that keeps you guessing, and Alfred’s dry humor.
Even back then, my bedroom was set up around my books. I had a bunk bed with a futon on the bottom. I hooked up a clip on desk lamp to the top and had pillows and a blanket to make a proper reading fort. The bookshelves in my room were cheap Ikea things, the actual shelves bowed from the number of books stacked onto them. I kept sturdy bags in my car for the sole purpose of filling them with library books whenever I had an excuse to be near the library
I remember reading Hush on that futon, my latest haul from the comic shop in a paper bag next to me, the issue spread across my lap. Thirty-two pages never took me long to read, but when I finished Batman, I had Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman. And then Fables. And then Star Wars. And after I’d gone through my monthly comics binge, I had David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan Saga, and Tolkien, and the volumes of Sandman I checked out of the library over and over.
Clearly, the whole book thing stuck, because now I write them, and teach other people how to write them, and work in a bookstore, where I get to talk about books all day.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.