I love books. I am a book person through and through and I’m not afraid to admit it, even if it does banish me from the cool kids’ gang. I love buying them, I love stroking them, smelling them and of course arranging them on their shelves. Sometimes in colour order, sometimes alphabetically, depending on my frame of mind. And it may be wrong, but I always judge a book by its cover.
I am however rather flighty, and after too much internet and not enough concentrating on Serious Things, I have noticed myself losing the ability to focus on a book for any length of time. That old friend Parental Guilt could also be to blame. As a child, I could lose myself in a book for hours, unaware of the passing of time. Now other things seem to intrude, and it is much harder to switch off, to silence that nagging voice in my head saying unhelpful things like ‘those dishes are not going to do themselves you know.’
In 2008, ashamed of the piles of barely read books by my bed, I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books in the year. All the way through. Right to the end. I managed 104. I completely lost touch with current affairs though…
Although I love buying books, I do try and limit myself. I love the look of floor to ceiling bookcases, and do cut out pictures of libraries and studies from magazines to stick on the wall, but I’ve found I have a tipping point with books. Not enough and I feel lost, too many and I start to panic – I calculate how many books I can reasonably read in the rest of my life and it doesn’t seem enough, there isn’t enough time, there is too much to be done. When I have too many piles of books they seem to taunt me every time I walk past. ‘You’ll never have time to read us you know,’ they whisper mockingly, ‘you’ll die before you can read 1% of us.’
I love to see my children reading, because I know how amazing it feels as a child to be consumed by a fantastic book. When I was younger I loved all the usual suspects – Secret Seven, Famous Five – proper escapism. As an adult, I still enjoy reading children’s books and have a particular fondness for the titian-haired girl detective Nancy Drew. Despite coming of age in the 1930s, Nancy is a role model for adventurous young girls everywhere. She is independent, fearless and never attempts to solve a mystery without a matching hat and gloves. If I find myself in a difficult or scary situation I often think to myself ‘what would Nancy do?’.
As well a Nancy Drew mysteries, I have some old favourites from my childhood that I will reread now for comfort – Winnie the Pooh and Adrian Mole in particular are guaranteed to sooth an overactive brain after a hard day – and I want to encourage my children to read not just for pleasure, but also as a useful coping strategy. When times are tough, a good book is a powerful weapon. Books can comfort us, inspire us, or simply provide us with the opportunity to escape from real life into a simpler world, a world of adventure, endless blue skies and lashing of ginger beer.
So I’m interested to know which books you enjoyed reading as a child. Are there any that have stayed with you, old favourites you turn to when you want to be whisked back, albeit temporarily, to a different time or place? And how do you find the time now to read with so many other aspects of life clamouring for your attention?
Amazing photo that I’m so jealous of: chotda