Books: A Case Study

imagesI’ve never met an avid reader who was also an asshole; I’m convinced the two are mutually exclusive. I’m a white, financially secure, American who empathetically did “the skedaddle” with Jeanette Walls in THE GLASS CASTLE, endured footbinding through Lisa See’s SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, feared Biafra alongside southeastern Nigerians in HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), struggled as a teenager with Scout to understand things that cannot be understood in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, considered (for the first time) the impact of Germany’s occupation in France during WWII with help from Kristin Hannah and THE NIGHTINGALE, and on and on and on. And on.

When I was a kid my mom would say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Living vicariously through all these amazing characters is what brought the saying to life for me. A failing memory won’t allow me to source this, but I was once in a conversation where someone compared life to a baseball game where some start out at home plate, swinging at pitches of various speeds and complexity, and others start at first, or second, or even third base– so much closer to scoring a run by birthright. To carry the metaphor further, some never even get a chance at bat.

UnknownUsually assholes think they are inherently better than others. Often, like me, they were born on a base. While books allow those starting at home plate to take a swing by opening doors through education, they also enable those of us lucky enough to have an “easier start” to glean insight and understanding about what’s going on in the dugout. What I’m saying is, books bring people closer. They spark compassion and are a catalyst for change.

For the past two weeks, my evening reading time has been hijacked by the Olympics. It struck me that this long standing tradition serves a similar purpose. Yes, there are doping scandals and rivals that can’t use the word “healthy” as a descriptor (much like there are books that are absolute garbage), but largely it’s an event watched in great awe of the boundary-less talent and determination that exists in this world. The looks on the faces of the victors during medal ceremonies brings me to tears EVERY TIME, regardless of country of origin. You can see– right there on their faces– the effort and sacrifices that preceded the medal around their neck. There’s a moment, when I lock eyes with theirs, that I feel like I’m reading their story.

Confession: I realize that I’ve failed to fully connect these two thoughts and wrap this post up with a tidy bow, but I’m mighty tired. So, in summary, yay! books and the Olympics, boo assholes. Goodnight.

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Abby Fabiaschi is the author of I LIKED MY LIFE (St. Martin's Press, February 2017). She and her family divide their time between Tampa, Florida and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, hiking, and yoga. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation? Learn more at abbyfabiaschi.com.

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This article has 6 Comments

  1. so glad to know that I am not an asshole! Seriously, that was very funny!! And the Olympics have cut into my reading time, too, but I’ve enjoyed every minute!!

  2. “I’ve never met an avid reader who was also an asshole… ”

    Wow. What an interesting thought. I think you’re onto something — reminds me of when Roger Ebert said that films were “empathy machines.”

    (I do agree that you didn’t quite nail the Olympics part. 🙂 It is quite possible to follow the Olympics and be an asshole — often on the basis of rabid nationalism.)

    Boo assholes.

  3. I TOTALLY get it and love your post. When the 3 American women 100 m hurdle received their gold, silver and bronze medals while the Star Spangled Banner played, tears were running down my face! And that’s just one of many moments.

  4. I’ll have to see in the future about this insight about readers …. LOL!
    As for the Olympics – yup, drop, watch and be in awe.
    PS. Today I’m not so sure I am totally human!

  5. For years I too believed that avid readers are usually not assholes..
    But there are exceptions to any rule and unfortunately I have experienced a few asshole exceptions …not many but a few. Never thought the two could truely be compatible but as the years fly by I find that life has a way of challenging my absolute conclusions and convictions. The good thing is if you live long enough you get to experience the beauty of learning that there are few absolutes when it comes to the human condition.

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