Editor’s Letter, November 2020: Sharing a Reading Experience

We’ve all done a lot of being alone together during the pandemic, staying apart physically while trying to stay connected as best we can. Reading can help.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

I love the idea that reading might be a solitary act but being a reader is a shared experience. I came across it while researching out-of-the-library options for this month’s “Book Smart” section. The same can certainly be said of writing.

Reading is a solo act for the most part—unless you’re reading aloud to someone else—that allows us to escape from the world for a while. It’s also more active than letting TV or music wash over us, and encourages our imaginations to fill the spaces between words with internal images and sounds.

Writing starts out in solitude, just you and your thoughts, but rarely does good writing reach a reader without a group effort. Believe me when I say a writer’s best friends are an editor and a proofreader. Lots of writers also benefit from feedback and instruction gained in classes, workshops, and writing circles. Throughout my journalism career, I’ve always preached to colleagues (and to myself) that while you might never be a great writer, you can always be a better writer.

Reading is a group effort at times too, especially for book club members and those who love to wander around book shops aimlessly peeking and poking, chatting with staff and strangers about favorite authors. Does anyone else spend time in the public library reading out-of-town newspapers and strange magazines? Just asking for a friend.

Honestly, if I could create my favorite moment in an instant, it would be sitting on a beach with my wife, children, siblings, in-laws, aunts, and uncles—a dozen or more of us gathered in a circle reading, sipping drinks, and listening to the waves crash and seagulls call. Talk about being alone together. It’s heaven.

We’ve all done a lot of being alone together during the pandemic, staying apart physically while trying to stay connected as best we can. More of us are reading and writing these days to fill the time and chase the loneliness, and maybe we’ve rediscovered a love of words as a result. If so, we’re happy to share this month’s guide to our literary city.

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