As a kid, I used to drag home so many books from the library that I needed help carrying them. That wouldn't have been a problem, except for the fact that my mother and both of my sisters had their arms loaded down with books of their own. We took to bringing back packs, shoulder bags, even plastic grocery bags -- whatever we could find to lug home our loot.
Back home, we would each begin with our own pile of books. But long about midweek, we would begin to wander through the small library created by the books our fellow Dooleys had chosen.
The result was that, although we each had our distinctive reading tastes, we read widely. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, having read and re-read the horse books and ghost stories in my own stack, I might flop backwards in patch of sunlight on the carpet, kick my feet up on the couch, and read one of Heather's poetry collections. Heather might test the waters of historical fiction out of Jennifer's stack, and Jennifer might learn about dairy goat farming or organic gardening from the books my mother chose.
Years have passed since I've had the pleasure of lazing around with my sisters, reading our way through a towering stack of library books. Of course I still read, and read widely, but all the books that make their way home with me from the library are books that I choose. And a lot of the time, they are books that I choose because they are the type of books I write.
There is nothing wrong with reading the books that surround your own on the library shelf. It can be helpful as writers to read the things our colleagues are writing, to devour and enjoy the books our target audience adores. And of course, many of us write what we do because they are the type of books we love to read. But in staying abreast of our craft, our genre, our favorite library shelf, sometimes we forget -- or at least, sometimes I forget -- to browse a few shelves over, to stock up on historical fiction, poetry collections, farming guides. Things we might not otherwise choose.
Tomorrow is the start of spring break for my students, and I'm going to have some free time on my hands. My plan for the break is to fill that time, and those hands, with books that have languished far too long in my to-be-read pile -- and books that aren't there yet at all, because I haven't stopped to consider them. I'm going to take a break from my usual fare and sample all the wonderful types of reading material I too often skip over simply by habit.
Tell me, what are you bringing home from the library this week? I've got my feet up and I've found a patch of sun -- now somebody give me something new to read.