Just how much do you love that book?

So, on Radio 4 this morning a discussion about how reading novels is good for you and helps you open yourself up to the world. Not news, possibly, to anyone who already reads. Though a new justification, possibly:

‘Sorry, darling, I’m not going to get involved in dishwasher loading/nappy changing/insert dull domestic chore of choice until I’ve finished opening myself up to this new world. Only 60 pages left…’

I always get a bit nervous when we tell people that reading is good for them because I worry that the initiated already know it, and it doesn’t sound terribly tempting to those who don’t. The consumption of books shouldn’t be like trying to clock up five fruit and veg portions a day or three brisk walks a week. Don’t read because it’s good for you, read because you get to walk a mile in another man’s shoes, because you can travel to the moon and the stars, because you can see the world through the eyes of a tiny child.

Reading isn’t something I do because it is good for me, it is something I do because I can’t not.

When I was first a bookseller at Harrods I had a lot of tourist customers.

‘I can’t fit any more books in my suitcase,’ they’d say.

‘So throw away some clothes,’ I’d say.

I really do think people should buy books rather than food. Perhaps not rather than food for their children…

I have been admitting to people that my son’s first three word sentence, ‘Mummy read book,’ as quoted in The Evening Standard article was not a request but an observation. This Sunday I was further training him along these lines. ‘Mummy is going to sit here and read Caitlin Moran for the third time. You can read your book or play with your toys.’ It all worked very well. He isn’t yet two, but he knows some letters, will sit and look at a book on his own and, above all, thinks of reading as a pleasure and a treat.

And in the interests of not sounding too much like the smuggest mother in the world, Matthew’s first four word sentence was ‘Big poo in there.’

In other news I felt that ante was well and truly upped on how to express your passion for reading this week. There is an intriguing debut from Vintage in August called The Night Circus. It has a gentle, quirky feel that I loved and it reminded me a bit of Le Grand Meaulnes. I have been passing it around at work and other people are loving it too. One of my colleagues, Susanne, told me that she had given it to her flat mate who loved it so much that she is going to get a tattoo of part of the jacket design.

Now, that is making a statement about a book, I thought. Forget all this namby pamby blogging and talking nonsense. Slightly concerned that I might have to get How to be a Woman tattooed across my forehead to prove that I truly am infatuated…

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8 thoughts on “Just how much do you love that book?

  1. Don’t give me an excuse to buy more books. I told my partner that a loyalty card holder visiting a bookstore is compelled to make a purchase – it’s in the small print. He believed me for quite a few months.

  2. I have to confess, I have bought books instead of food this week. I cook for the children, but being vegan, I can sustain myself on risotto for a week. It’s not the first time I’ve spent my food budget on books, and six months ago had to turn off one-click ordering on Amazon. But there are days I don’t read. Your son sounds great. Mine is reading “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” at the moment and quite upset it’s coming to an end!

  3. Interestingly, living alone I can’t say that I’ve ever had to justify my reading and so have never really thought about it. Suffice to say that I often have to reprimand myself for having neglected other tasks to finish a good book. But the book generally gets the priority. You raise some great questions Cathy, and make me look at how integral books and reading are to my life. Thanks.

  4. It’s easy for kids who are brought up with parents who read. Mine were and to my horror I once had to tell them to stop reading as we were in the car going to judo and it was dark. Did it stop them? No! It’s the people who’ve found reading difficult or are not surrounded by books that seem to struggle with the concept that books open a whole other world to the reader. And I don’t think computers help.

  5. Vee. totally. It is amazing how many booksellers got interested in books at a really early age. Both Erwyn’s parents are massive readers. My colleague Chris was telling me how much he remembers his Mum reading when he was little. (And she took him to his Grandparents every weekend – sounds very like me!)

    It does break my heart to think of children in houses with no books. 3 in 10, apparently….

  6. Life without books would be sad indeed. To my shame, I’ve fallen in love with my Kindle now. No more dilemmas over which books to pack. If I read a book review I like, I can be reading the e-book a minute later.

    I’ll never forsake books though; nothing quite matches the pleasure of settling for a couple of hours with the real thing.

  7. I totally agree with your telling the customers to throw away some clothes: I left my handbag in my hotel in Dublin so that I could fit my Hodges Figgis stash in my suitcase. I love clothes etc, but I love books more.

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