15 Ways to Honor National Book Month

October is National Book Month! (Although if it were up to me, every month would be National Book Month.)

This is in important occasion for readers, authors, publishers, book sellers, and book lovers of all ages. It’s a month dedicated to literary pursuits, for snuggling up on the sofa with a hot beverage and bury yourself in a romance, fantasy or mystery.

This is not to be confused with National Reading Month which takes place every March. National Book Month is designed to encourage reading books of all genres, to support others’ rights to acquire and read books, and support authors and independent bookstores. If you love books and if you love to read, this themed month is one to savor.

So how can you honor National Book Month? Here are a few suggestions that are sure to keep you busy all month – and beyond. What is your favorite way to celebrate National Book Month?

1.  Enjoy a reading retreat. Set aside an entire weekend just for indulging yourself with a good book. Turn off the TV and streaming services. Instead, immerse yourself in the written word rather than watching it on the screen.

2. Read a new author. Scan the bookshelves at the library or local bookstore and find an author you’ve never read before. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve heard good things about. Or maybe you’ve never heard of them, but the book title and premise intrigues you. When you try new authors, you open yourself up to new ways of storytelling.

3. Re-read a favorite author. Re-reading a novel from a favorite author is much like wearing an old favorite sweater; it’s warm and comfy. If a lot of time has passed between readings, you may see something new in the story that you did not notice during the initial reading.

4. Visit an independent bookstore. Once upon a time, the existence of independent bookstores were threatened by big online retailers. But many years later, thanks to the dedication of avid readers everywhere, independent bookstores are alive and well. Show your support for booksellers by visiting a bookstore.

5. Visit your local library. For those who can’t afford to buy books, libraries are their go-to place for reading. These days, libraries are more than just a place to borrow books. You can also borrow DVD movies, audio books and music. Libraries are the ultimate literary community center of the neighborhood.

6. Join a book discussion group. There are numerous book discussion groups around and many of them specialize in a particular genre, such as mystery, current events or memoir. Check your local church, library or bookstore for one near you. If you can’t find a group that fits your interests, start one of your own.

7. Swap books with other readers. When you’re done reading a book, what usually happens with it? Most likely it collects dust on your bookshelf. Consider swapping books with a friend or neighbor so you both can enjoy them. Or set up a library in your apartment building so all residents can contribute their used books.

8. Set up a Little Free Library. These little free libraries seem to be popping up all over the place in recent years. With public libraries overflowing with books, the Little Free Library is the next best place to go to find books or donate ones you no longer want.   

9. Support local authors. Follow them on social media, comment on their postings, or attend an author book signing in person. Show them you appreciate their work. Authors often spend hours alone honing their craft before they can become published. Seeing fans in person gives them a feeling of satisfaction.  

10. Donate books. There are many non-profit organizations that collect books to pass on to people who don’t have access to them. One such organization is Chicago Books to Women in Prison, which responds to letters from women in prison and sends them books upon request from their library. Consider donating books you’ve already read so others may enjoy them too.

11. Carry a book with you wherever you go. Tuck a book in your briefcase, backpack or purse. If you’re out and about and you suddenly find yourself stuck in traffic, waiting at the dentist’s office or riding the bus, you can use the spare time to read.

12. Read a banned book. A surprising number of books are falling on the banned hit list in many areas of the country. Many of these books are banned because they are either considered sexually explicit, depict child abuse or contain LBGTQIA+ content, among other things. You can find lists of banned books on the ALA’s website as well as ways you can get involved in fighting book banning.

13. Listen to an audio book. If you can’t sit down to read, try listening to a book instead. Audio books make it possible to multi-task, so you can enjoy the latest best-seller while driving your car or cooking dinner.

14. Write a book review. Is there a book you absolutely LOVED? Or conversely, is there one that disappointed you? Write a brief review about it. Post it to your own blog (if you have one) or post on a review site like Good Reads.

15. Start writing your own book. So you won’t get published any time soon. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are inspired by the books you’ve read to start writing one of your own. National Book Month honors authors of all kinds, whether they’re published or not.

Why Independent Bookstores Still Matter

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Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on Pexels.com

Much has changed over the past few decades that has made an impact on the book publishing industry. New technologies have made it possible for new writers to self-publish, creating an influx of new authors and book titles that we didn’t see before. Online retailers have made it easier to shop for books from the comfort of your home or office so you don’t have to step inside a bookstore – ever.

But despite these changes, there’s still a place for independent bookstores. While many shops have shuttered its doors, many others are thriving. How are they doing it? By offering products and services that online retailers and national chains are not able to. By focusing on what they CAN do, rather than what they are not equipped to handle, today’s indie bookstores have managed to remain relevant while winning the hearts, minds and hard-earned dollars of their customers.

Independent bookstores may not have the name recognition of a national chain and they may not even offer coffee and free wi-fi, but they provide a sense of community that is lacking in larger chains and online stores. That’s what makes them still relevant today. That’s what makes them so appealing to bookstore customers.

So I’m giving our friendly neighborhood independent bookstores some loving this week. Here are a few reasons indie bookstores still matter:

* Independent bookstores serve as an anchor in the community. Many independent bookstores are managed by people who live near the community. They are your friends and neighbors. When you support these small shops, you support small businesses. Local bookstores are more involved in their communities that larger chains. They understand the importance of building community and sharing resources among their neighboring business. For example, they might work with the bakery across the street to brink in fresh-baked muffins and cupcakes for a book meeting.

They’re more likely to participate in fundraisers, street fairs and community events. And they serve as a popular meeting place for tour groups, reading clubs and kids’ groups. They may even provide a forum for a local political candidate running for office. With a strong connection to the community, they’re able to create a loyal customer base and build a steady stream of business from repeat customers.

* Indie bookstores provide stronger support for new literary voices. Indie bookstores especially appreciate local authors, and they will do whatever they can to support their book. They do more than just sell the book. They may profile new authors in their newsletter, or give them a forum to talk about their books. Since the indie bookstores aren’t always locked into big name authors and book titles, they can give new authors a more intimate stage to showcase their work.

* Independent bookstores can specialize in a particular genre. To thrive in today’s competitive environment, some indie bookstores are specializing to attract a specific type of reader. For example, Chicago-based Read It & Eat specializes in selling cookbooks and other food writing. The store has a kitchen for cooking demonstrations and hosts author and chef signings. By specializing in culinary interests, the store is able to create a unique shopping experience targeting the large customer base of home cooks in the area.

* Independent bookstores can help improve the local economy. According to IndieBound.org, an online community of local independent bookstores, for every $100 spent at an indie bookstore, approximately $52 is returned to the neighborhood, compared to less than $6 for national chains. The more money that’s put back into the community, the more that will cycle back to the bookstore in the form of repeat business from customers. That keeps a local community thriving.

* Independent bookstores are better for the environment. According to IndieBound.org, when you purchase books from an indie bookstore, there’s no need for boxes and packaging for shipping, and there’s no transportation needed for shipping. That not only saves the customer money for shipping costs, it means the boxes and shipping materials don’t end up in a landfill. That means a smaller carbon footprint for all of us.

In today’s marketplace, independent bookstores play an integral role in our communities and provide a strong support system for writers and readers alike. By providing a more diverse selection of works and more choices, readers can expand their literary knowledge and become acquainted with new book titles, authors and genres. And because they’re managed by your friends and neighbors, they provide more personalized, friendly service.

Celebrate small business and shop at indie bookstores. That’s the best way to show them some love.