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…