By Josiah Horn

How many times have you forgotten to go to sleep because you’re stuck inside the world of a book? Or, something more common for me, how often have you caught yourself getting distracted and slowing down at work because you’re way too invested in an audiobook? Written literature is one of the many forms of art this world has to offer, and what amazing art it is! In 1999, the Association of American Publishers decided that there needed to be a celebration of reading, so May was named “Get Caught Reading Month” across the nation. Now managed by Every Child a Reader, Librarians and teachers can head to to get posters of celebrities, authors and book characters caught reading a favorite book.

Joplin is home to an amazing public library that is staffed by some amazing people. I am fortunate enough to be related to some of the library’s staff! I reached out to My Mother, Laura, My Sister, Damaris, and my Sister In Law, Jessica, to talk about reading! 

I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting when I asked what books everyone is currently reading, but the answers were all over the place. Everything from horror, manga, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and my Mother is even reading a nonfiction book about how dictionaries are made!* However, one common conclusion did make its way to the surface; Reading is important!

Lets face it, every single Millennial and Generation Z is in a constant state of being busy, anyone who has ever tried to get more than two or three people in the same place at the same time can attest to that, so I asked why it’s important to take time out of your day and read. 

“Life can be kind of the worst sometimes,” Jessica told me. “I enjoy making time for myself to read so that I can get out of my thoughts for a bit and go to places I may never see in my lifetime”

“It helps fuel your imagination,” Damaris added. “And it’s a good way to help yourself unwind”

My Mother told me that she couldn’t even imagine NOT reading, and even admitted that a cereal box would be good enough to get her by if there was nothing else, which I think we can all relate too; we’ve all seen the memes of people pretending to be interested in a shampoo bottle or a can of air freshener when they forget to bring their phone to the bathroom with them. I personally even remember a year I had made the resolution to read every day, then I went on a camping trip and forgot a book, so I read warning signs over and over again every day just to get my reading fix.

I found this cool article from the University of the People about the importance of reading.

The theme of this month is to get caught reading, which I found that getting caught is something that isn’t really thought about. Of the three women I spoke with, favorite places to open up a book were in the privacy of their home, in places such as the bath, snuggled up on the couch, or outside on a nice day on the porch or layed back in a hammock. But is reading in public, and getting caught, such a bad thing? Depends on how you respond to people reading in public.

When I asked what you would like a stranger’s reaction to be if they saw you reading a book they liked, the answers pretty much surrounded the theme of minding your own business.

“Is it rude to say I would probably want to be left alone with my book?” Jessica told me, and, by her own admission, she is something of an introvert.

“If I am not so engrossed that I am unaware of others, I’d invite a small chat, but not being interrupted otherwise,” my mom said. The general mindset was that we read for ourselves, and the outside world becomes a second priority when you’re engrossed in a book. But there is another side to this same question, I also asked these women what they do when they see someone ELSE in public reading one of their favorite books.

“Knowing my shy, introverted self, I would probably just have a goofy awkward smile on my face.” You can guess who told me that, my other sister, Damaris. She added, “I might wave and smile at them if they happen to look up, but mostly I’ll just be excited from afar.”

There may not be a good way to open up a conversation with someone reading a book, but getting caught reading by someone who loves the same book is almost certainly going to put a smile on their face! In the same way that hearing a song you like from the car next to you at a stoplight, or going past a yard that has a sign for a candidate or cause you care deeply about can make your day just a bit better, getting caught reading can bring more joy to this world. If you knew that you could spread even just a little more happiness, wouldn’t you see that as an absolute win? So, grab your favorite book, find a place that you can get caught, and dive in! And if you see someone reading something you love this month, take the time to soak up the feeling of knowing you aren’t alone in the things you love, and loving something is always worth it.

My interview with Mom, Damaris and Jessica also had some more fun questions that I wasn’t sure how to include in this article, but I’m not about to leave them out! Here are those questions and their entire responses:

What is a book with an absolute badass female character and tell me some about her.

Mom: I’m supposed to pick just one?  The first one that pops into my head is Thursday Next of the series by the same name by Jasper Fforde.  She is a literary detective and a Book World Jurisfiction agent.  She protects the story both inside and outside of books and isn’t afraid to do what’s needed to get the job done.  She is also a wife, mother, daughter, sister and is very loved by those people even though she is far from perfect. 

I would also put Lessa and Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series on the badass list as well as the less obvious, but no less awesome, Elner Shimfissle of the Elmwood Springs books by Fannie Flagg.  —  Lessa and Menolly are both women who overcome huge odds of their childhoods to become powerful in a patriarchal society.  Elner, on the other hand, seems like a basic, traditional old lady until you realize the many things she has just done while living her own life to the fullest.

Damaris: One of my favorites has to be Nova Artino from the “Renegades” series by Marissa Meyer. She’s quick-witted, intelligent, and strong. And despite viewing herself as a bad guy, she never hesitates to do what she knows is right. All in all, a fantastic character!

Jessica: Circe by Madeline Miller! The book is a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey from the point of view of Circe the witch. I cannot recommend this book enough! Especially if you enjoy Greek mythology and badass witches! I read this book early last year and I am still thinking about it!

Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book!

“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures—flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

Definitely check out trigger warnings for this one though, as some parts can be a bit graphic.

Should bookstore dates be a thing?

Mom: Aren’t they? Browsing and buying books together sounds like a good time to me.  (Supporting local businesses is cool, too!)

Damaris: Yes, absolutely!

Jessica: Oh, absolutely! Speaking as someone who has been on many bookstore dates, I can say they are one of my favorite kinds of dates to go on! I love roaming the shelves and talking about my favorite books with my date, and learning about their favorite books as well! Bonus points if there is coffee involved!

Many many thanks to Mom, Damaris and Jessica for doing this article with me! I hope you had as much fun with it as I have.

Another huge thank you to Jeana Gockley and the Joplin Public Library for allowing me to name drop them and interview their employees! Go check them out at 1901 E 20th Street in Joplin, that would be a great place to get caught reading.

*”Word by Word: the Secret Life of Dictionaries” by Kory Stamper

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