A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Summer Book Bingo: The Many Reasons to Play

by Kate Jones, Summer Intern


Another wonderful summer has come and gone, and I’m looking at my finished Summer Book Bingo board, trying to articulate why I love this experience so much. I’m no Book Bingo veteran—this is only my second card—but I’m starting to boil it down to a few reasons, reasons that will have me coming back to this program again and again.


I love the challenge of Book Bingo. It inspires and motivates me to read outside my comfort zone, which has led to some of my best reading experiences. For this year’s “challenges your worldview” category, a friend and I headed down to Pike Place to check out Left Bank Books, Seattle’s local anti-authoritarian bookstore. The book I ended up buying, How Nonviolence Protects the State, had me talking to myself in my kitchen at 7am as I made coffee, trying to come to terms with exactly how I felt about it. I have never in my life annotated a book so furiously.


In June, I half-heartedly picked up Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale, ready to struggle through another science book. I ended up finishing it in 3 days, fascinated by his experiments and stories of bumblebee behavior. For weeks afterwards, I would excitedly impart my new knowledge about bees to anyone who would listen. From just two categories on my Bingo card, I was inspired to explore my city and find books I never would have dreamed of picking up. These past two summers, I have pushed outside my comfort zone in more ways than one, and without fail, been surprised by the things I’ve found.


The second reason I love Book Bingo is for the way it changes my views about summer. The last of my summers as a high school student are moving by more and more quickly. As my schedule has filled up with college applications and essay classes, internships and babysitting hours, my summer days have become frantic and crowded. It’s easy to fall into a fixed mindset, convincing myself I don’t have time to read or relax. Playing Book Bingo makes everything seem to slow down.


In the past two summers, on my quest to fill out a card, I’ve spent long hours walking the path through the Arboretum to the Montlake Library. I’ve read late into the night, or on a blanket spread out in my backyard in the midday sun, or as I sit on the bus to Capitol Hill to get groceries. Book Bingo allows me to savor every moment of my summer. It encourages me to stop—between racing from a job, to a friend’s house, to the store, to my house to make dinner—and read a few pages. I take full advantage of those quiet moments during bus rides or in waiting rooms, or the rare day when I have nothing to do. Thanks to Book Bingo, I experience summer in its entirety, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.


Finally, I love how Book Bingo affects my relationship with reading. I have always been a reader. Since first grade, I was the kid who devoured every book she could get her hands on, who read the backs of cereal boxes during breakfast and spent free hours in the library. Though I’ve maintained my love of reading through the years, occasionally I get stuck. Overwhelmed by homework, schoolwork, and extracurriculars, I’ll fall back to re-reading the same books, over and over, or picking up books only to set them down again after a few days.


This all changes when I play Book Bingo. Instead of re-reading, or not reading at all, I pick up my Bingo card and start to plan. I find reviews and filter through my Goodreads to-read list. I think back on recommendations I’ve received and pull every book I own, but haven’t gotten around to reading just yet, off my shelf. I search for books that fit the categories I need, but also legitimately interest me. I look for books that excite and inspire me. And, inevitably, after all this research, I end wanting to read many more books than I could possibly fit into just 24 bingo squares.


Summer is over, but after reading They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us for my “about music or musicians” square, I want to read everything Hanif Abdurraqib has ever written. Though I could only choose one book of poetry to read for the “poetry or play” category (Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds), there’s a Post-It note on my bulletin board that lists seven more books I’m interested in. I’m no longer required to read a book “published when author was under 35,” but after reading Sally Rooney’s Normal People, I was left completely speechless, and now I’m in line for Conversations With Friends at the library.


I spend summer being swept up into the lives of new characters and immersing myself in their worlds for hours, discovering new things about myself and the world. I leave summer with a completely full Bingo card and a long list of books I’ve discovered, books that I can’t wait to start. Through Summer Book Bingo, I fall in love with reading again. And that is the greatest gift I could possibly receive.

Posted in Summer Book BingoSAL Volunteers