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Why I Read

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for Feburary, 2007

To celebrate the publication of my seventh book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, due back from the printer this week, let's talk about books. This month, some reasons for reading. Next month, some of the wonderful frugal fun you can have with books.

Astoundingly, in almost ten years doing this newsletter, it appears I've sorely neglected the fabulous joy of reading. Going through the archives, I see only one column on children's books (November, 2000), one on buying books used (May, 2005), one on giving used books instead of Halloween trick-or-treat goodies (October, 1999), and one on libraries (not just the book sections, February, 2004).

So it may shock you that I credit books with saving my life.

I was a lonely kid. I had few friends, and most of them were the kids of my parents' friends--I was in high school before I started learning the skill of actually making friends with other kids. Books were my friends. Several of the kids in the neighborhood were bullies who made my life miserable--but I could escape through books.

One of the best things that ever happened to me was to be placed in Mrs. Gross's class for first grade. She recognized that I was reading above grade level, and instead of making me suffer through Sally, D ick and Jane, she sat me in the back of the room with a fourth grade geography book--and began to learn about all the other cultures and belief systems, the exotic experiences that awaited me once I could make my own journeys. My love of travel has continued to this day, over 40 years later. And she's the only teacher I had up through 4th grade whose name I still remember.

Opening the cover of a good novel was like opening the door to a mysterious and wonderful alternate universe, full of heroes (often kid heroes, such as I longed to be), evildoers, mysteries to solve, sagas to record. When an author did a series, I would make friends that would last for months. The nonfiction was full of fascinating information about how the world is put together or chronicled the lives of great inventors, creative geniuses, or adventurers from the past--or simply opened my head and heart to new ways of thinking. Nobody in these books ever called me vicious names or made fun of my lack of athletic ability.

My idea of a good day was to sit on the stoop of my New York City apartment building on a beautiful sunny day and read a whole bunch of books.

These days, my life is busy and I read hundreds of pages a week to stay current in my business. I have less time for pleasure reading. But every night before I go to sleep, I try to read for five or ten minutes, from a book that has nothing to do with my work. And when I travel...I just got back from a four-day trip to Denver for my niece's Bat Mitzvah, and I managed to scarf down four complete books (two fiction, two nonfiction) and parts of several others. One of the novels, *The Miracles of Santo Fico* was something I'd picked up at Book Expo America years ago and never gotten around to; I loved it so much I immediately started recommending it. The joy of discovering a new writer never leaves me. The other was a "classic"--*The Princess Bride*; I actually liked Santo Fico better.

Yes, I'm passionate about books. You could call me a "bookaholic." I'm a nonfiction writer married to a novelist; the first thing we did when we bought this house eight years ago was hire a carpenter to put in lots of bookshelves. We get rid of a few hundred books every couple of years and still have no room on the shelves. We're avid users of the library, of various bookstores, and of used book sales.

If you haven't discovered the amazing magic of books, all I can say is, you're missing out. If you don't enjoy reading, try audiobooks. If you model reading and your kids discover the joy, their lives will be better forever. Try turning off the TV for a week and spending that time reading something just for fun.

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