About six months ago, I was having a conversation with one of my favourite people, who also happens to be the smartest person I know. As usual, the conversation turned to books. Besides giving me some great suggestions of what to read, which I am always on the look out for, he said something which really struck a chord with me – if you read, you can never be bored. It’s so true. I have made it through 33 hours’ worth of flights and layovers without feeling bored for a second (only really, really sleepy!) thanks to the stash of books in my bag. I am always curious to know what on earth people who don’t read do in those kinds of situations. My mind boggles at the thought of a world without books – in the same conversation, my smarty-pants friend and I both agreed that we would give up music before we’d give up books…huge for both of us – which may explain why I have gained the reputation as the girl who always gives books as gifts. Better to be the crazy book lady than the crazy cat lady I suppose.
My friends know that their kids are guaranteed to get books from me for birthdays, Christmases and any other random occasion that grabs my fancy. I think this stems from the way my sister and I were raised – our mom and gran taught us that books were something special, something to get excited about. Thanks to my gran, I was reading from the age of three, and every special occasion was rewarded with something new to read. My childhood was a glorious time of getting lost in Enid Blyton’s world, with The Famous Five and Mallory Towers series being among my favourites. I loved the stories I read so much that at one stage I tried to convince my mother to send me to boarding school, just like the girls from Mallory Towers. I wanted midnight feasts and lacrosse (whatever the hell that is) too damnit! I never really had the same sense of adventure as Nancy Drew or The Famous Five, but it was great living vicariously through them as I curled up on the couch, and their picnics always sounded so good. Then I discovered the Jinny series of books by Patricia Leitch, which centred on a wild little girl (Jinny) and her even wilder horse, Shantih, and all I wanted was a horse of my own. So much so that I made my mom buy me the Farmer’s Weekly every week so that I could choose one. Strangely she was less into the whole horse buying plan than I was, what with us living in a flat and all.
But books were not just for special occasions. Of course we had our library cards too, and would stock up on things to read every second Monday. I am probably one of the only people I know who still goes to the library. I love everything about it – the rows and rows of books, the hushed tones of people browsing for a little piece of escapism to take home with them, and the smell. Ah, the smell of a library. On my last trip to Ireland, I finally got around to visiting the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am most definitely not a religious person (unless chocolate counts as a religion, which I think it does), so I was certainly not forking out the €9 to look at ancient biblical texts. No. My focus was on what lay beyond the Book of Kells exhibit…The Long Room section of the Old Library. Imagine this – a room 65 metres long and over two stories high with beautiful vaulted ceilings, holding approximately 200 000 of the oldest books in the Trinity College Library’s collection. As one website describes it, it is a cathedral of the book. The smell of old books permeates the air, and it was probably only the presence of other tourists and security guards that stopped me from lying on the floor to breathe it in. I do love a good library.
That being said, I probably wouldn’t have actually read any of the books in The Long Room. I may be a snob about spelling, but I’m fairly indiscriminate when it comes to reading. I draw the line at Mills & Boon though. Actually, I have a little formula when I go to the library, since there are just too many books to choose from. Normally I’ll take one thriller, one comedy, one girlie book and one ‘thinking’ book (i.e. something that has a little more substance, a little less escapism). It’s not as if I’m lazing around the house reading Proust every day (or ever for that matter). I loved Jane Austen and Shakespeare and all those old-school intellectuals while I was studying, but I’m pretty much done with them for now I think. Now I like to immerse myself in something with a compelling plotline, written by someone with a clever turn of phrase. The thing is, when you’re reading in the bath, at the dinner table, during your lunch break at work, and pretty much everywhere else in between, it can’t always be War and Peace. Give me the latest Patricia Cornwell and I’m in my element. I also have a theory about boys who only read really intellectual books…but that’s for a separate post I think.
Scientists recommend that people read more in order to develop brain capacity…which as far as I’m concerned just backs up my theory that people who don’t read are not very bright (yes, I did just say that). I know, I know, we’re all so busy, where are people supposed to find the time to read? While you’re in the bath obviously. Or you could switch off the TV for half an hour *gasp*. And yet how many times a day do we listen to people telling us they’re bored? Obviously if you’re at work and reading all day long is (sadly) frowned upon, then I can understand being bored, but the rest of the time, I have absolutely no interest in and no sympathy for the plight of the perpetually bored. And yes, if we’re friends, your next birthday present is probably going to be a book, unless I know you’re one of those people who don’t read…in which case you now know I’m quietly judging you. For the record, magazines do not count.