For the love of…

17 Jun

Books. For the love of books.

It became apparent to me some years back that, albeit much to my surprise, some people simply don’t like to read. It’s not that they don’t have time, nor that they can’t read in moving vehicles. They simply don’t like to. I’m still not sure how to process this! It’s not quite the same as not liking marmite, or raw tomatoes. It might be sort of similar to being vegetarian, except that here you’re choosing not to do the thing that’s so good for you. Oh, I know, I’m a terrible book snob. The thing is, I was raised amongst readers and that made all the difference with me. My siblings and I are all readers and each one has their preferred genre – my older brother is partial to some dark Stephen King and Harlan Coben, my sister is prolific in her consumption of “grown up woman’s lit” not to be mistaken for chick-lit (see: The Help), and my younger brother and I have pretty much the same taste in books: anything and everything, and always have a book in your bag.

CS Lewis

There are so many good reasons to read. The reason I don’t quite buy the ‘I don’t like it’ excuse, is that my stuck-in-his-ways-kinda-dude of a husband has re-learned the art of reading. It started small, but quickly grew into a full on ‘must read the Games of Thrones trilogy ASAP’ (in English!) obsession. He’s currently immersed in the original tales of Sherlock Holmes, in Hebrew.

Because the thing is, I really do believe that everyone can enjoy reading if you just dip yourself in slowly. See if a book is a good fit, wiggle around a bit, ask for help and recommendations and find your preference or the genre or author that helps you settle back and get lost in the telling of stories, be it fact or fiction.

When I have a ‘book freeze’, where I don’t feel like reading any of the ‘new stuff’ that is so precariously piled on my bedside table, I turn to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s the story I fall into most easily, like a cushion that has memorised your shape.  Persuasion is not too long, it has great humour, and the characters have become familiar to me from frequent readings. Yet, wonderfully, every time I come back to it there’s at least one part of the story I had forgotten. The maddening, heartbreaking tale of Anne and Captain Wentworth has captivated me over and over again during the years, and I hope will do so for many more to come. You know why it’s this book? Because I identify. Because I can remember, bleakly, the feeling of being in unrequited love. Because even though I know the ending, I cheer them along and I boo those that stand in their way. I feel the ups and downs of their journey and I remember being on a similar one myself. Everyone has a book, because everyone has a story.

Try it. Maybe it’ll be a Shakespearean play you pick up, or Milton. Maybe it will be Maya Angelou or Jodi Picoult. Maybe you’ll discover Jonathan Safran Foer is your thing, or maybe Hemingway will rock your socks off and you’ll never read another author again. Maybe it will be a thin book of short stories about the shtetls in Europe before WWII, or a graphic novel from Feudal Japan.

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Keep reading. Keep bringing your kids to your lap and reading with them. These are the ways we open our minds and hearts to the world around us. Before we saw the world for ourselves, we read about it in books and we traced our tiny fingers over brightly coloured maps in Atlases. We dreamt of far off places because we read stories about them, and conjured images in our minds of what they might be like. We read fairy tales to our children of lands (or galaxies) ‘far, far away’, of Arabian Nights and Crocodiles with ticking clocks inside them, and we let their – and our – imaginations run free.

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