I started reading books when I was about seven years old, and I’ve read steadily through school and beyond at an average rate of about a book and a half a week. So 35 years x 78 books/year = 2,730 total books read throughout my entire life. (It seems like it should be a larger number—books, that is, not years.)
I’ve liked a lot of those 2,730 books, loved quite a few of them, but only some have really moved me. I have an evolving longlist of my favorite books of all time, and a semi-permanent shortlist. If you were to ask for the title of my absolute best-loved book, however, I would tell you that it’s whatever I’m currently reading. Often that’s because I really do love it, but usually it’s because I feel a kinship with the author’s presence in the work.
Writing is a lonely sport. We do it because we’ve tried, as has been often said, to do something—anything—else, and cannot. We sit in our homespun idylls and weave words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, and so forth until we create works worthy of sharing with an often-anonymous public. Sometimes an author hits it big and fans fawn. Maybe they get used to adoration and take admiration for granted. But I bet most of them don’t.
When I fall in love with a novel, I reach out. I send the author a love note to say thank you for those four nights of pleasure. Because I mean it, and because I know the gruesome, inspired, tiresome, amazing, thankless, graceful, painful, divine work that goes into writing a book. Dear author, thank you for working your countless hours to create such beauty for the benefit of us readers. OK, I don’t fawn quite so much, but I am honest. If I love something, I will express it. And often, the other author will respond.
And I love them all the more for it. Some of those simple gestures have turned into gentle acquaintances, and others into genuine friendships. Of those 2,730 books, a tiny select few of their authors have become some of my dearest compatriots, and their presence enriches my writing—and my life.
So if you’re a reader, send the author of your favorite book a note. It sure makes me feel good to be on the receiving end of warm and fuzzy feedback. And if you’re the author, write back. Not only will you secure the devotion of your reader, you might even end up with a friend.