World Book Day
Thursday 3rd March 2011 was World Book Day, although it seems that it has been celebrated on TV, radio and in the newspapers over the weekend. We all have our favourite book or books, whether they are genre specific, reference books, biographies or whatever, we have all read at least one book in our lives that has had some sort of impact on us however great or small.
I grew up in a house of books which was strange because the only books I have saw in my paternal Grandparents house were copies of the Bible, a World Atlas, A.A members book and a copy of Old Moores Almanack, as for my maternal Grandparents house I never saw a single book, although there were plenty of magazines and, courtesy of a friends teenage daughter, a huge pile of comics waiting for me whenever we visited. My Dad was a reader and collector of the 'classics' and as I had two older cousins at Grammar School I inherited a set of home study books from the late 1950's and early 1960's. Those books along with the I-Spy series, football sticker books and the books you got for collecting Typhoo cards were the starting point of an eclectic reading habit that lasted well into my thirties.
Those early years fostered a quest for knowledge, a desire to learn what us over 50's now refer to as 'General Knowledge' or what a colleague of mine used to call a little knowledge of a lot of subjects. It's as much about learning for the satisfaction of knowing something as it is about reading. People read for a variety of reasons but I've also been drawn for some reason to books from which I could learn
'stuff', not just facts and figures but things about the human condition and about what drives people on as much as anything.
I've moved away from reading novels over the last decade or so, autobiographies, history books and travel writing seem to be my literature of choice although if one book comes along that combines all three such as Erskine Childers Riddle of The Sands then I can be persuaded to read it again and again. I've also noticed that reading one book often leads to buying another simply through the mention of something that intrigues me. For example whilst reading Germania by Simon Winder I became interested in Frederick The Great which in turn led me to buy a book on the latter and the Seven Years War.
Books of course are now widely available in electronic format and it's interesting to read that Kindle and the like are more read by the over 50's than the under 30's, I suppose that's because when you are below 30 you want to be out there living the life rather than reading about it. Books also play an important psychological part in our lives, they are a means of escape into a world we don't necessarily experience on a day to day basis, whether for good or bad, after all whilst the Victorian England of say Middlemarch might appeal the Victorian England of Oliver Twist most certainly doesn't. There's something tangible, old fashioned almost, about holding a book, in the same way that dewey eyed recollections of holding vinyl albums hanker after a lost era, books of course remain with us, vinyl for the most part remains for a few obsessives.
It's important to pass on the practice of reading as well through reading stories to children and engaging them in discussions about what you are reading to them and what they read on there own. There are far more attention seeking activities out there than ever before and many that are physically more interactive and visually more stimulating but for me nothing beats that moment when you read a passage in a book, pause for a moment with the book resting on your lap and consider what you have just read. It's a feeling as old as printing itself.