As soon as I read about it in November, I knew I wanted it.
I suggested it as a Christmas gift. But the book wasn’t officially available until December.
So I ordered A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick for my birthday. It arrived Friday – along with four other books in three packages.
Birthday Books 2019. To share with my beloved. Photo: TLClark.
I’m the sort of person who likes books about books. A Velocity of Being is not quite that. It’s better: letters about reading from authors and artists, musicians and scientists, actors and others. Each was asked to “write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.” (Maria Popova, “Introduction,” A Velocity of Being).
As if that were not enough, every letter is accompanied by a work of art created in response to that particular message. The works by illustrators, graphic designers and other artists are exquisite, adding a rich layer of interpretation to the letter.
Just a few examples:
- In the first letter Jacqueline Woodson writes of reading to her young son and impulsively kissing “the top of my son’s mohawked head.” (p. 16) Lara Hawthorne captures the moment beautifully.
- Leonard Marcus encourages us to pack books carefully when moving. “Not many things in life can be counted as ‘permanent possessions.’ But a few things can, and our favorite books are among them.” (p. 158) Julia Rothman’s illustration shows the chaos of boxes being packed to move with one carefully marked “PERMANENT POSSESSIONS.”
- “The world itself is all beautiful” Andrew Solomon writes, “but sometimes it can be hard to see that, and books let you understand moments of beauty you might otherwise miss.” (p. 100) He writes about loneliness, justice, kindness, sadness, happiness and more, two sentences at a time. Catarina Sobral used bright, bold, primary colors to portray a child whose world is upended by reading a book.
I haven’t read every letter – yet. Nor have I spent time musing over every illustration – yet. A Velocity of Being will take some time to absorb and to enjoy – one letter, one picture at a time.
Read about Maria Popova’s creative vision for the book and see some of the many exquisite illustrations by visiting her blog: A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read.
I’ve started the new year with two works of fiction. One was added to my “to read” list as soon as I heard the author was preparing to release her next book. The other was a Christmas gift.
Both books are written in English. Both have language that stretches me.
Tony Hillerman has long been one of my parent’s favorite authors. But it’s my first time to read one of his books. I started The Blessing Way as bedtime reading on Tuesday.
I have read every book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series – except the latest one – at least twice. The Kingdom of the Blind went with me on Wednesday as waiting room reading. Once started, I read it straight through, putting it down only to drive home, to prepare and eat supper, and to sleep.
Returning to the Hillerman book, I was struck by how I was challenged by the language. The names of the native peoples, their names for places, and even some of the descriptions of the southwestern U.S. landscape are mostly foreign to me. I have to concentrate to keep them straight.
Set in French speaking Canada, Penny’s books also include names of people and places which are mostly foreign to me. Having done nothing with the French I took in college 34 years ago, decoding phrases written in French takes effort. I have to concentrate.
Reading as an enjoyable pastime requires falling into the language. Relaxing into the rhythm of words and phrases and sentences. Being open to new vocabulary as well as new ideas. Allowing the text to reveal a new or unfamiliar world.
What are you reading? How is it challenging you to see more broadly or think more deeply?
So many books. So little time.