This Sunday at Shelf Life: Gently Reading with Gentle Readers

At the last meeting of the Gentle Reader — Shelf Life‘s reading and discussion group — just talking about books got me so fired up that after we ended I promptly went up the street to Magus and picked up the first book that caught my eye (Steven Johnson’s Ghost Map, which I highly recommend). As I’ve mentioned before, I used to read books like drinking water, but that habit has waned severely over time. My reading habits are now internet-centric and most often occur in the context of a tiny illuminated screen. But after sitting around the Shelf Life table with other lovers of the printed word and discussing the future of digital books, the future of bookstores, curated readings, the role of editors, and our own personal reading habits — a familiar feeling washed over me: I wanted to read a book. I wanted to fall into and get so immersed into something that I didn’t know what time it was and I couldn’t wait to get back to it after I put it down. And I wanted get to started. Right. Now. (Thank you, Ghost Map! You were just the thing.)

Would you like to get excited about reading a book again? Have you also lost that loving feeling? (Ohhhhh that luuuuvvving feeeeeeling) Well, Gentle Readers UNITE! The discussion group convenes again this Sunday, August 21, at 3 pm. We have some selections from Alberto Manguel’s recent book, A Reader on Reading, as accompaniment, but by no means do you have to have read this before showing up. (Pick up the readings here or stop by Shelf Life for a copy.) Think of these short essays (in which Manguel muses about how he became a voracious reader, how that reader became a writer, and what the ideal reader is) as the aperitif (or the happy hour $3 well drink, you fancy people, you) to what we’ll actually be discussing, which I’m calling THE BEST PART.

THE BEST PART theme is inspired by Wave Books, our current publisher-in-residence, who has really kicked up the reading quotient around here. Every Sunday since July 31st they’ve been offering a combination bookmaking tutorial and a reading by a special guest. While visitors are sewing single-signature books, poets and translators (Joshua Beckman, Alejandro de Acosta, Hitomi Yoshio and Steven Karl) have been reading to them as they work, a cuban cigar factory tradition that I think needs to be replicated at all bookmaking facilities from here on to eternity. This Sunday is also Wave’s FINAL bookmaking tutorial and reading (starting at 1 pm), with the Special Guest Reader being none other than Christine Deavel, co-owner of the legendary Open Books, the ‘poetry emporium’ in Wallingford that carries over 9,000 titles of poetry or poetry-related books.

Here’s where you come in. Right after Wave’s reading we’ll continue in the spirit of readings-out-loud with Gentle Reader: THE BEST PART. We invite you to bring in your favorite books and to read to us what you think is THE BEST PART of the book, the passage that really sealed the deal for you, the page that you dog-eared, the part that you’ll always remember. It’s summer reading, potluck-style. This is the Gentle Reader in which we celebrate the act of reading and being read to. I hope that by the end of the meeting we’ll come away with a list of new books we’re itching to find — and that we’ve all got that loving (reading) feeling.

Sunday, August 21
1 pm
Bookmaking tutorial and reading with Wave Books and Christine Deavel

3 pm (note new time!)
Gentle Reader: THE BEST PART
Reading: Selections from Alberto Manguel’s A Reader on Reading
Readings by YOU — the best part of your favorite book

Shelf Life is the Henry’s summer ode to BOOKS and READING. From July 1 – October 16th, the Henry has invited book lovers from various fields — independent publishers, librarians, poets, writers, designers, and, most importantly, readers — to share with us what they do and why they love to do it. For a complete list of Shelf Life related programming, please visit this page.

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