21 Mar 2017

Nantucket Is Well Read

In her New York Times Bestseller, “How Reading Changed My Life“, author Anna Quindlen concludes, “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” In this age of electronic devices, HBO mini-series and YouTube videos, there still is nothing that compares to the age-old pastime of cuddling up with a steaming cup of a tea and a good book. There is something about the ability to feel the crisp paper between your fingers, dog ear favorite pages and highlight meaningful words or passages that provides not only a sensory experience, but almost a spiritual one as well.
It’s exhilarating and enlightening to be around fellow readers. The most stimulating conversation starter at any dinner party is the question “what are you currently reading?” The famed Nantucket artist (and our dear friend), the late David Hostetler, could carry any dinner conversation for hours with this single inquiry. He would become animated, engaged, inquisitive and hilariously funny as each guest took a turn sharing snippets of their latest fascinating read. There was never any “book shaming.” There was equal intrigue for the historical biography and the trashy beach novel alike.
Nantucket is an island that celebrates the written and printed word with annual events like the Nantucket Book Festival and One Book One Island project. Two extraordinary independent bookstores, Mitchell’s and Bookworks, offer everything from cookbooks to children’s literature, bestsellers to gift books and an entire section dedicated to local authors. Both offer cozy corners where one can just sit and spend some time turning the pages without interruption. The Atheneum and Weezie Children’s Library have an astounding collection of works in all genres and equally beautiful spaces to sit quietly engrossed in the words.
The Grey Lady also has the unique ability to foster an affinity among fellow bookworms. There is no shortage of island literary lovers who understand that books aren’t meant to simply be enjoyed, they’re meant to be shared. I recently received two gift books; one from a blog fan and fellow writer who sent me a copy of his own book with a personal inscription saying, “I love what you write, I hope you’ll enjoy my writing too.” Another from a client/friend who read my piece quoting Robert Frost and promptly sent me his children’s book with a note indicating she thought my granddaughters would enjoy it. These gestures…and the sharing of the beautiful sentiments…were incredibly meaningful and what Anna Quindlen so aptly described as the “destination and the journey.”
The next time you’re on Nantucket, stop by one of the local bookstores and pick up a few good books. Spend some time in a quiet corner in the store, on a bench by the harbor or a blanket on the sand perusing the pages. When you’re finished, inscribe something sentimental, profound or funny inside the front cover and send them off to someone you love. The books may ultimately end up on a shelf, but the stories they tell and your willingness to share them will impact someone’s life.

Words Matter.

Shellie Dunlap
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