In honour of World Book Day, this post is all about what books mean to me as a reader. It’s a personal journey, and it’s quite random, and I hope you’ll share your own thoughts and experiences right back.
Opening Up New Worlds
Right now my daughter is learning to read. Each night we painstakingly sound out every word and make our way through various stories, step by step. I’m so eager for her to learn to read, to have the wonderful world of books open up before her, that I held myself back from teaching her to read before she started school – I went the opposite way! I was worried I’d be one of those pushy parents, and might scare her off. Thankfully she loves books – we’ve read to her every day since she was 2 days old! – and ‘book’ was her first word. The other day she made her own book – The Three Hedgehogs. We taped the pages together, she wrote out her story and even illustrated it. I’ll keep that book forever.
A Means of Escape
In difficult times I often retreat back into a book I’ve read before. I’m one of those people who get too tense to enjoy a film – or book – until I know the ending. Once I know how things turn out I can watch or read again and derive far more enjoyment this way. (I once commented to my husband that I wished I could skip to the end of my life and make sure it all turned out well, then come back and live it in a more relaxed way!) My favourite books to retreat into are A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler, Fortunes Rocks by Anita Shreve, and Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman.
Through books, and my reaction to the stories and characters they contain, I’ve learned so much about myself. On some level I notice what resonates with me, repels me, or just plain makes me feel happy. This knowledge, this insight, can’t be gained in any other way. I think people who don’t read, or who don’t read fiction perhaps, are missing out in this way.
I spent my twenties and early thirties in the self-help revolution, and my bookshelves were groaning under the weight of all those helpful tomes. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway is a book I still have and read today; most of the others have fallen by the wayside. If I’d kept them, and written the dates purchased inside the covers, you could chart my life experiences right through those years. No matter what happened, there was always a book to help me deal with it. First were the books about how to find the perfect relationship, followed by a title I remember distinctly – Happy To Be Single. (Shows how well the former worked out!) Stacks of self-counselling and life coaching books, find your perfect career, find your place in life – find yourself! And practical books too; I lived alone for many years, and with the help of wonderful books, borrowed from the library, I learned how to tile my bathroom, put up shelves and curtain rails and blinds, change plugs and unblock sinks.
Relics and Symbols of Hope
Even as the need for how-to books is diminishing (Google, anyone?), there are books I can’t part with on my shelves. They remind me of who I am, and there is something so much more comforting and permanent about looking up how to lay a patio, say, or how to get fit (!) in a book, rather than on the internet. And all those books I’ve bought over the years – Thinner Thighs, 10 Minute Facelift, Teach Yourself Access Database, Jewellery For Beginners, to name just a few – they represent ideas I’ve had, and parts of my personality that are no more. (I’m so past caring about facial muscles drooping now!) I wish I had kept every single book I ever bought, and kept a list of every library book I ever borrowed. Because all of my life is there, to be read.
- World Book Day 2013: what’s happening across the country (telegraph.co.uk)