More and more, the choices we make are based on what we’ve done before. If you watch a YouTube video on kittens going parachuting, you’ll get a whole list of similar video recommendations. It’s the same thing on Netflix, Amazon and a whole bunch of other sites. It’s not wrong to go with things that you know you’ll like, but sometimes it’s good to mix it up and try something completely new.
Not sure how to start? If you’re generally not a fan of non-fiction just think of any random 3 digit number. All non-fiction books are organized by the Dewey Decimal system, which uses numbers on the spine labels to group books into categories. So let’s say you think of the number 641. That would lead you to cookbooks, and great titles like How to Cook: Delicious Dishes for Teen Cooks
Another way to free your mind from the usual is to deliberately look at something you don’t like. Take Shakespeare, for example. Not a writer that everyone loves, but combine him with something unexpected, like Star Wars and you never know what you’ll find. Bard Vader maybe?
Maya Van Wagenen found her freedom by following all of the rules. The twist is that the rules were from a book on popularity from the 1950s. From wearing a girdle to sitting with a new group every day at lunchtime, Maya abided by all of the instructions in this ancient how to guide for an entire year. Was this a road to freedom and self-determination or total inhibition and mindless conformity? Read the book and decide for yourself.
The next time you visit the library, instead of just looking for something new by your favourite authors, try something different. Rather than reading the next book in a series, or going by a recommended reading list to find a read-a-like, try taking a book by an author whose name falls alphabetically just before or just after your usual choice. Or you could try reading a book by every author on a certain shelf, or books by authors whose names start with vowels or books that have been translated from another language, or books with red covers. There’s really no wrong way to open your mind to new possibilities, the hardest part is deciding where to begin.
So you have all of these choices, and you can choose to read whatever you want, but what if you didn’t? We live in a country where we can decide on our own what to read, but that freedom doesn’t come without challenges. You might be surprised by the books that people have objected to and the reasons why. Every year, we celebrate Freedom to Read Week, a time to rejoice in our right to read anything, anytime, anywhere. Drop by the West End and St. James libraries anytime during the week of February 26 – March 4 and take a mugshot style selfie featuring a banned or challenged book, or discover hidden poetry by “censoring” pages of text.
Free your mind and you’ll be amazed at what will follow.