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The Day of the Book, and the rise of the #shelfie?

Day of the Book #shelfie

A #shelfie of the books we’re reading in our house–some for me, and some for the kiddos.

The International Day of the Book

The 23rd of April is celebrated in many places as the International Day of the Book, or World Book Day. UNESCO declared April 23 to be World Book and Copyright Day as “an opportunity to recognize the power of books to change our lives for the better and to support books and those who produce them.”

April 23rd has grown in importance in the world of letters due to a number of important events happening on or near that date. In 1616 William Shakespeare died on the 23rd and another great literary light, Miguel de Cervantes, is thought to have been buried on the same day of the same year.

La Diada de Sant Jordi

The 23rd of April is an especially important day in my second home–Barcelona, Catalonia. Since 1456 the Catalans have celebrated La Diada de Sant Jordi, or the Day of St. George, on this day. Sant Jordi is similar to St. Valentine’s Day– it is tradition for women to receive red roses, and men to receive books. The most celebrated Catalan language literary festival, the Jocs Florals, or The Floral Games, are also held on the 23rd.

Read a book, take a #shelfie

I’m not a big fan of the selfie–I think it may be one of the more troubling trends of our age. We take a lot of selfies. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to deny that the selfie tends to make us more concerned with our faces than our minds. The selfie makes us more and more focused on our “self,” and causes us to pay more attention to how we seem rather than how we are.

Books on the other hand focus our attention outside ourselves, pointing us to experiences and people and ideas that are different and alien to ourselves. I’d much rather see a photo of the books my friends are reading than see another selfie. So in honor of the Day of the Book, read some books! And send me a #shelfie.*

*(I recognize there’s a certain irony in championing the #shelfie–it’s just as likely that we’ll carefully craft our public images by choosing the books we show, etc.)


Another view on selfies

A friend reminded me that there can be a more nuanced view of the selfie. This article by The Guardian includes an interesting counterpoint, saying that “A selfie can, in some respects, be a more authentic representation of beauty than other media images.” It goes on to quote an article for Psychology Today:

Instagram (and other social media) has allowed the public to reclaim photography as a source of empowerment… [it] offers a quiet resistance to the barrage of perfect images that we face each day. Rather than being bombarded with those creations… we can look through our Instagram feed and see images of real people – with beautiful diversity.

Instagram also allows us the opportunity to see below the surface. We capture a glimpse into the makings of people’s daily lives. We get a sense of those things that make the everyday extraordinary.

It’s undoubtedly too simplistic to lump all selfies into one category. Thanks for the good perspective, SZ.

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