“Read To Me!” : A Collection of Readings to Weather the Storm…

WHAT EVEN IS THIS??? (Keep reading below to learn about the project, if you want!)

**2022 note: I’m somehow even busier now but this project always lives in the back of my mind. I also have a backlog of recordings by myself & others that I will one day upload here. In the meantime, continue reading to get a glimpse into my often chaotic mind.

BUT WAIT – I just came here to listen to people read to me! (No worries – skip to HERE!)

A long time ago (7 years, almost to the day), I started a Tumblr called ‘Manu Reads.’ It is now defunct, but you can look at it if you wish. The Internet never forgets, as I like to remind my 5th graders. It was, in effect, a collection of me reading parts of non-original things aloud that I thought were great. The excerpts ranged from a few seconds, to a few minutes. The concept was pretty simple, but it was basically this, quoted directly from the original intro post in 2013 (quick note – I don’t like the “that person sucks part” but I’m leaving it so as not to be fraudulent – there are many people I’m sure who do not like reading, and they are 100% in their right to feel that way. They can still hate me, but I’m not sure why they would. Anyways!):

I don’t want to review books because there are a zillion people who do that better than I do. But I do want to read to you! Because who doesn’t love reading aloud/being read to? Well maybe someone, but that person sucks and would hate me anyways. I’m gonna take the fact that I am a huge pest to all of my friends and roommates and say every 5 minutes: “Oh my god can I read this passage to you? It’s really short I promise!” and instead put those parts of books/magazines/online cool things, as fancy high-tech sound bytes, on this blog!

Those who know me know I have been, and always will be, a reader. I love reading as a solo act, a community-building experience, and a creative way of disseminating information. I love reading to people, and I love being read to. Reading was what set me on the path to an English Lit degree, 10+ years working in independent bookstores, and a Masters in Library Science. I’m still **personally** a print book purist, but I’ve come around to the accessibility & convenience of eBooks. Especially during these concerning times, in which people cannot access their libraries, bookstores, or any other place that might easily supply them with a book. But more on that later.

There are now also what I consider great trends occurring in publishing – #OwnVoices books for young people; an explosion of graphic novels; an increase in women, LGBTQ+, and folks of color being published. What can I say! Reading is great! I now have knuckle tattoos that say “Book Club”!

If you want to read more about how much I love to read, visit the following bullet points ~~ Comments in green are from now (2020) ~~ also quoted directly from the OG blog. If you don’t care about that, then just skip to the pic of me & the cat, and the words that come after about what’s different, and why I’m doing this again.

  • I never leave my house without a book, or 8 (but seriously, a bouncer the other night laughed in my face when he saw the amount of reading material I had brought to the super unlit bar). Still definitely bring books to bars, yes.
  • The New Yorker is the closest thing I have ever had to a bible, hence I constantly over-share information/know entirely too much about Russian clocks, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and that artist who only paints scenes in Wal-Mart. Now it is New York Magazine, but same, yep. That wretched Tiger King show everyone is watching on Netflix? Already read the ‘longread’ in print months ago… I also actually LIVE in New York now.
  • My only jobs have ever been in fantastic independent bookstores, so I have prematurely solidified myself as unemployable anywhere ever again, except more fantastic bookstores. And I love it. OK, this one has changed! Yay! Now I’m a librarian/tech integrator in a fantastic middle school! 24-year old me would be so proud.  I did have a stint at Strand Book Store in between the first post, and now.
  • The fact that I work in a fantastic bookstore right now means that the pile of books by my bed is growing and growing into a precarious, possibly life-threatening, definitely never-diminishing tower. Same to piles of books, but see above for career change info.
  • My secret #1 dream is to be the next Maureen Corrigan, or at least one of these people/their small librarian minion: 10 of the Coolest Librarians Alive. Yes. Although I find Maureen Corrigan boring now, no offense NPR. That other link doesn’t exist anymore, too bad. I guess the Internet does forget. Don’t tell the 5th graders.
  • I start book clubs everywhere, all the time, wanna join? Yes. I’m in 4 book clubs right now. 

Here’s the pic of me and the cat from today! March 2020!


So as promised – what has changed? And why revive the project?

Well, we’re currently living in a global pandemic, and life is uncertain, lonely, and scary. I’m trying to stay strong, and do what I can to “help” (keeping tabs on neighbors, delivering meds/groceries to housebound folks, keeping freakishly rigorous tabs on my friends, putting remote learning plans into action at work, sticking to a schedule, exercising however I can, eating healthy and SOCIAL DISTANCING). But it is still hard. To say the least. I’m worried about our future, my parents, other people’s parents, those who have pre-existing health conditions, my friends, my students, germs, my claustrophobia getting out of control, the national government, the list could go on forever – but I won’t let it.

In a less fraught time, maybe all of this isolation would mean time to read. Unfortunately, most of the time when I pick up a book it feels like this tweet, because the ubiquitous anxiety is real & suffocating. 

So, I thought the prospect of reading in order to find tiny gems, treasures, and moments of pleasure to share with friends who are also struggling trying to find peace would be a great motivation. A motivation to start going through the piles of to-reads laying around my apartment, tune my mind off of the news, and start digging for beauty within the pages of a book. Hence, the revival of this recording project.

What else has changed?

  1. I’m opening this project up to all of you! I want to hear what you’re reading! I want to know what pockets on the page, or on the screen have made you smile. Re-read. Dog-ear or bookmark for later. If something has spoken to you, I bet you cold hard $$ that someone sitting at home right now will benefit from hearing it too. Therefore, I’m transitioning Manu Reads into a community project –> a ‘Collection of Readings to Weather the Storm.’
  2. Technology is way easier now. I remember struggling to compress files & other silly things, and that is no longer the case. We all use the Cloud! Most of us have Smart devices with built-in voice recording apps & really good cameras! If you don’t, and you still want to participate, lmk & we’ll figure something out.
  3. I have this cool website now, which I made for a few reasons, but mainly as a digital sort of resumé before I got my dream job in a strange turn of events. I don’t know exactly what sort of form the collection of recordings will take. A library? A list? WordPress is fancy and allows many things such as embedded audio players & playlists. So, I’ll use this as the platform for now.

Any more questions? Just ask! But what I really want is for you to start emailing recordings to me. There are no rules, just these suggestions:

  • What you read aloud should stand alone – meaning, it should make sense to anybody who hasn’t read the whole book, chapter, article, etc.
  • I want to know where it’s coming from! What’s the book? Is it a book? Is it from the Internet? How can we find it? WHO WROTE IT? You can either narrate that in the intro, or include it in the email. Beyond the basic info, you can add as little or as much context/added narration as you desire.
  •  I think I look really weird reading/talking! I don’t like to watch myself doing it! So, I’ll probably stick to sound bytes. But if you want to share your beautiful face, by all means do it!! I miss everyone despite so many Zoom calls!! Zoom!! Who knew?!!
  • The ‘Manu Reads’ project was intended for non-original works. That said… I know so many amazing authors & writers & illustrators & all sorts of other amazing creators. And I want to hear your words too. If you want to read, or share your own stuff with me – please do it!

I’ve started us off with a clip from one of my favorite authors, Jacqueline Woodson. The book its from is a Middle Grade novel called Harbor Me. The recording quality honestly stinks, and I just did it sitting in my room with the “Voice Memo” app on my phone. Also I technically cheated because I read this book a few months ago, and had folded the page to revisit this part later. Now it seems like the perfect intro piece in many different ways, as you will hopefully see for yourself. As referenced above, I still need this kick in the butt, and inspiration from all of you wonderful readers, to start reading new things again myself.

Happy Reading & Happy Listening.


Guest Readers: