Reader’s Bill of Rights

rathish-gandhi-211551

Sometimes a novel’s story summary sounds interesting but fails to deliver. Sometimes it’s a matter of it just not being the right time for you to read that particular book. Sometimes the opening “hook” does its job and pulls you into the story, but the following pages fall short and your interest wanes.

Life is short. There are too many good books out there to spend time reading one that does not measure up or appeal to you.

I used to think if I started reading a book, I owed it to the author to finish reading it. I no longer abide by that. When I joined a book club a few years ago at the Kannapolis branch of the Cabarrus County Library system, I was introduced to a “Reader’s Bill of Rights.” Perhaps you are familiar with it. It is attributed to Daniel Pennac in Better Than Life, published by Coach Press in 1996:

“Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes” – Daniel Pennac

If you do not live in the United States, “Bill of Rights” might be an unfamiliar term for you. That is what the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively called. It is not coincidental that Mr. Pennac listed 10 items in his “Reader’s Bill of Rights.”

In the United States, we take for granted our access to books and other reading material. Millions of people in the world are not that fortunate. Americans tend to take free public libraries for granted until elected local government officials threaten to close libraries or radically curtail their hours of operation due to financial constraints. Many of them see libraries as an easy target. They see libraries as “fluff.” We suffered through this in the county in which I live during the downturn of the economy that started in 2008. What was taken from us in a proverbial “blink of an eye” took several years to reinstate.

We have wonderful public library systems in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties in North Carolina. I utilize both systems most weeks. The Harrisburg branch of the Cabarrus County system is a very inviting hub of activity. When Harrisburg’s public library branch opened in 2001, our community started to feel like a real town.

I do not take my right to read lightly. I hope you have the right to read anything you want to read. As you can see from the table of flags on this blog page, people from at least 73 different countries have read my blog. When I write my blog posts, I try to be mindful of that.

Some of my readers live in countries where there is no free press and there are heavy prices to pay (such as prison life at hard labor or even execution) if you read something that is banned. Knowing that a few individuals in such countries are putting themselves at risk by reading one of my blog posts has put unexpected pressure on me.

Please don’t take your right to read for granted! This Thanksgiving season in America, I’m thankful for my right to read and for free public libraries.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius.

If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

I hope you live in a country where you have the freedom to write and read anything you want.

Janet

Author Event in Kannapolis

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of holding an author event in Kannapolis, North Carolina’s branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library system to talk about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Part of the audience in Kannapolis on May 7, 2015
Part of the audience in Kannapolis on May 7, 2015

Those in attendance were very supportive and interested. They seemed to enjoy the “audience participation” portion of my presentation. There was lots of discussion and give and take between me and audience members, which I enjoyed. Everyone was engaged in the presentation, which made for an enjoyable evening for all.

Blue Ridge Mountains word find puzzles and a few of the postcards displayed at the event
Blue Ridge Mountains word find puzzles and a few of the postcards displayed at the event

The library staff had an attractive display of other library books about or which were set in the Blue Ridge Mountains along with a pamphlet listing all those books. Someone put a lot of work into researching the collection and putting the display and brochure together.

Display of other Blue Ridge Mountains books in library meeting room
Display of other Blue Ridge Mountains books in library meeting room

After my presentation and the Q&A portion of the program, I sold and autographed copies of my book. It’s always rewarding when someone is moved to pay $20 for a copy of my book.

Janet, autographing a copy of The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Janet, autographing a copy of The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

I appreciate the Friends of the Kannapolis Library’s willingness to host this event. It is only through the generosity of people who voluntarily give of their time and resources to support public libraries on the local level that authors can hold events like this. In today’s climate of budget cuts, decreased library operating hours, and skeletal staff in public libraries, it is not easy to schedule programs like the one I offer. I am indebted to the Friends of the Kannapolis Library and the entire staff there for making this event possible.