I like to talk about books. Nay, I love it. It takes all kinds to make a world, but to be frank, it confuses me when people tell me they don’t read. Some manage it with shocking nonchalance, as though they had breezily pronounced, “Oh, no, I don’t breathe. It’s just not something I do.”
How much less vibrant and limited in scope must those lives be. I paraphrase someone very bright and clever (I’m too lazy to Google it) when I say, “A normal person lives one life, but a reader lives a thousand.”
Diversity, imagination, empathy, knowledge, wisdom and hilarity. Books provide all those things in unparalleled plenty. To think that TV and Twitter could supplant the place of literature in the lives of some seems to me nothing short of a devastating shame; not because I insist people read some standardised art-form, but because those people’s dislike if books is just that: a dislike, a part of them. Some people just don’t like reading, see no value in escapism. And the folly in trying to convince them otherwise would be mine.
Yet it will never cease to bring a sinking sensation in my chest. For me, it’s all the worse when some are under the impression that they are indeed, readers. That having read Fifty Shades, A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter and the prescribed school-board reading of Of Mice and Men and Wuthering Heights makes them well read.
I’ll say this here, instead of all the times I’ve wanted to scream it in people’s faces: I do not consider readers of one series of books, readers. It’s tantamount to a person claiming to be a film fanatic because they watched the Star Wars box-set once.
I’d never insist that anybody read widely and indiscriminately on principle; people like what they like, and any high minded idea of great wisdom coming from amassing a library of varied books means little to most people. But a great sorrow comes over me when I see that people have entirely missed the great ocean of variety and wonder that lies stretched out at their feet.
There is so much out there. We’re all guilty of this blindness. I certainly am. We narrow our gazes whenever we go into a bookshop or log onto the Kindle store, and see the titles on promotion, given the prime real estate on the front tables or, most hallowed and sacred of all, the ‘face-out’ position on the shelves.
We fail to even acknowledge the majority of books out there for no reason other than that they have not been placed in front of our faces.
The books placed in those star positions are by no means superior, more entertaining, better written, or ‘worthy’. They are there for one reason only: influence; because somebody knew somebody who could do them a favour, or because somebody dropped a lot of money to buy that spot.
So here’s what I want you to take away. If you’re a reader, and you’ve at some time thought the same thoughts I list here, then do what you should, but never do.
I beg you, go to your local book emporium, brick-and-mortar or digital, and pick up a book you’ve never heard of, not on sale, not in a star position or high in the charts. Buy it, support a writer struggling to be heard in the cacophony of voices.
Life’s way too short to stick with the flow.