I recently stumbled upon Girls at Library (GAL), a website created by Payton Turner and Eliza Wexelman in 2015, as a thoughtfully curated archive of girls and women who are passionate about books.
GAL “invites the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and emotions that underscore what makes reading such a universal pursuit. The books one reads both shape the mind and reflect the soul: literature empowers, transports, and inspires. To this end, GAL promotes reading as a constructive and enriching act for everyone.”
They do not discriminate when it comes to the interviewees; they are women from all different backgrounds, living all across the country, from directors and authors to singers and activists. There is a wide range of ages represented, from 10-year-old Wesley Pfleeger, who created a magazine for young girls called Bright Lite, to 78-year-old Francine Pascal, the author of the Sweet Valley High series.
While some of the questions the women are asked are consistent, the interviews all feel like personalized discussions about the books that have influenced them and about their particular reading habits and preferences, as well as explorations into their careers and passions. I loved reading some of their book recommendations and agree with the women (most of them) who said they prefer holding a physical book in their hands to a Kindle or iPad.
While I haven’t read through all of the interviews, one in particular that stuck out was with Wilhelmina Wosinska, a Polish-born psychologist who after having a stroke 5 years ago reads constantly as mobility is difficult for her. Wilhelmina believes “the power of story is getting an insight of other people’s lives, how they resolve problems, how they get to a better place, how they fulfill their desires.” And Zachary Drucker, who I originally saw featured on the documentary I Am Cait, writes so beautifully and whose love of To Kill a Mockingbird I could relate to (I named my dog Scout after all). She says, “there’s something completely immersive about a story,” which is why I, personally, love reading; I feel like I can disappear into a different world and I always become so invested in the characters and their stories.
And if none of this does it for you, the photos that go with the interviews are absolutely beautiful. 🙂
A couple questions they ask each woman made me think about what my own answer would be. The first one being, “what was the first book that turned you into a life long reader?” It took me a while to determine, as I went from reading children books to chapter books almost seamlessly but the first book I remember reading that had a big impact has to be The Giver. It was the first young adult book that I had that feeling of being completely immersed in and read over and over starting at 8 or 9 years old.
The second request is to recommend three books and why. So…
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: I love most books (and movies based on the books) from this era, but Jane Eyre was one that I couldn’t put down and was engrossed in the complicated love story of Jane and Rochester, much darker than Elizabeth and Darcy.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: I think John Irving is an acquired taste and I’ve spoken to people who have a difficult time reading him. He has a unique sense of humor and writing style and Owen’s quirky story captivated me. It was a required summer reading book in high school that I fully enjoyed.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: While not the most difficult read, The Kite Runner was probably the first book that opened my eyes to some of the more upsetting views of the world and was the beginning of my more progressive attitude.
What was the first book that turned you into a lifelong reader?
(all photos via Girls at Library website)