One of McSweeney’s recurring features is called Interviews with People Who Have Unusual or Interesting Jobs. I usually skim them, but today’s—with a bookmobile driver—was worth the longread.
(When my parents and I moved to their current house in 1992, one of the first things I noticed about the neighborhood was the Bookmobile stop outside the school. I waited sixteen years for the Bookmobile. It never came. But still, there was hope. Because that's the dream, isn't it? A library that comes TO YOU.)
One of the very few causes that penetrates the lard and charcoal encasing my heart is literacy. The road to better runs through books, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. When I recently found myself in conversation with two kids (yeah, I don’t know what happened) who wanted to know how I got so smart (NOW we’re talking), I told them I just read. A lot. A LOT. Books written in different time periods, of different genres*, by different kinds of people. THIS kind of diversity, I can get behind.
Comedian Sue Perkins traveled up (down?) the Mekong River for a BBC series last year, and while a trip through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China is a lot to shoot into your brainpan, the one moment that brought water to my eyeholes was her encounter with a library boat. Said boat travels part of the river, bringing books to kids who otherwise wouldn’t encounter them. (I mean, it’s the Mekong River. These people don’t even have doors.)
Water to My Eyeholes, You Guys
I shan’t rehash the importance of libraries in my own life, or try to guilt you into donating to literacy-based causes or attending the National Book Festival (which you SHOULD, obviously, more anon), but really the least you could do is read the McSweeney’s interview.
Do yourself some good. Close the Candy Crush and turn on the Kindle.
[Side note on this year’s Book Festival: Walter Isaacson, David McCullough, Cokie Roberts, Marilynne Robinson, and Jane Smiley are on my list so far. And since volunteering last year meant missing Doris Kearns Goodwin, I think I’m going to limit myself to just attending this year. Definitely a lady-or-the-tiger situation, tnough.]
* I may have inadvertently introduced those two kids to the word “genre” in that conversation. I kinda hope I did.