One of the finest nights out I have ever had was spent sitting in an armchair with a head of lettuce and a book and a profound sense that all was right with the world. I was fourteen, home alone and a little uneasy about it; it was a Saturday night and everyone but me seemed to have somewhere to go. At first I was uneasy and lonely and restless, but on one of my wanderings around the house, I noticed a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, and just like that, I was at ease and befriended. I grabbed the book, headed into the kitchen for something to eat while reading— why I chose a head of lettuce I cannot say, but it seemed like the perfect snack at the time — and settled into the biggest, squishiest chair in the house. The hours passed and I was transported. I don’t remember my sister coming home, nor do I remember hearing my parents come in; I only snapped back into the present moment when my mother tapped my shoulder and insisted that I go to bed. The time I had spent absorbed in the book — punctuated by occasional fistfuls of lettuce — was like a reverie, a perfect sense of immersion during which the rest of the world fell away. Sometimes, these days, when I am dolling up to go out for an evening, my mind flashes back to that chair and that book and I wish I were staying in. It was, truly, the perfect way to spend a night.
You know where this is going, don’t you? I’m inviting you to have one of those perfect nights, to curl up in your chair with a snack and a book, but this time with an additional purpose: To celebrate the marvel that is our public library. This is the library’s un-gala: We will not be serving you rubber chicken or requiring you to find the studs for your tux, and we won’t be spending any of the money raised on flower arrangements. We are going to have the best evening ever, because staying home and reading a book is the perfect way to spend a night. That it benefits the library makes it even more perfect, because there is nowhere more necessary and worthy, especially at this moment in time. Every penny we raise at the Stay Home and Read a Book Ball this year will go directly to the Los Angeles Public Library’s Future Ready Teens initiative, which supports the programs and services for children and teens, including Live Homework Help services, Student Zones, Student Smart, and Teens Leading Change.
One final note: You can choose any snack you want. Lettuce is neither required nor advised.
And one final final note: Thank you for joining me in supporting the library!
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. Her most recent, The Library Book, is the story of the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. She lives with her family in Los Angeles and the Hudson Valley.