I’ve just caught up with the twenty first century and bought a Kindle. It’s on the kitchen table looking very smart in its zebra-patterned coat, but I haven’t managed to download anything yet.
But I don’t want to get into a debate about electronic v paper. There’s room for both. No one complained that typewriters, then word processors, PCs and laptops would signal the end of hand writing, or that ballpoint pens would mean the end of ink. Though I remember arguments about how the humble biro was ruining the nation’s handwriting, when I was at school.
No, I want talk about the reasons for reading, not the delivery system.
I’ve always been a reader, ever since my mum enrolled me at the Public Library. I admit to being a precocious reader – Mum was a teacher and I could read before I went to school. When I was old enough I worked in the library on weekends – using the Browne’s issuing system. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Browne_Issue_System
Seems rather archaic nowadays, but this was way before computers. But I loved it and read everything I could lay my hands on. Later, my first regular, paid employment was also in the Public Library system, where I was properly introduced to literature, biography, poetry, social and political history… it’s a very long list. But my first love was, and still is, fiction. I learn a lot from it: how the world works; personal relationships; history and social commentary. I love losing myself in the worlds that other people have created. A bit like video gaming but without the pictures and sound effects …. hang on, isn’t that a Kindle?
More than any other activity, reading quietens the noise in my head. It allows me to disconnect from my worries and take on someone else’s. I love being able to unravel the difficulties experienced by the protagonists in a novel. They are at one remove from mine; they may be similar – in some cases, they’re identical – but as I attempt to solve these intangible problems, I come to terms with my own.
Many years ago, when I was in the throes of a traumatic separation, I spent every evening and weekend deep inside a book, exploring the lives of others, identifying with their troubles and cheering when they overcame them. Oh, the delight of discovering a new author with a bulging back catalogue – the literary equivalent of the box set. Gorging on back to back episodes of a favourite serial without fear of interruption is a joy unrivaled.
All of human life is there, within the pages of a well-written novel.