A collection of ten essays, this little book is a fabulous read for those of us who do not merely enjoy reading for our own pleasure but are also fascinated by how it affects us. The essays explore what reading means to their authors and people they know and come into contact with. The authors also discuss what happens to our brains as we process the contents of our reading. Writers such as Zadie Smith, Mark Haddon and Jeanette Winterson talk about how reading has had a life-changing impact on them personally, affecting how they view the world and the courses their own lives have taken as a result. Zadie Smith begins the book by talking about how the influence libraries have had on her reading journey and her subsequent writing career. Jeanette Winterson tells of how a book on mountaineering takes her outside of her world and her experiences of it. Blake Morrison expresses twelve thoughts he has about reading, all of which resonate with me. I love Carmen Callil‘s comment, reflecting on the importance of the physical book: “Books are like gardens, a Kindle or an iPad like a supermarket – it makes life easier, but one doesn’t want to loiter in it. You can fiddle with books. Like gardens, they can be wonderful to look at…” Tim Parks shares his ideas about mindful reading and Michael Rosen reflects on his memories of his father reading Great Expectations to him as a child and how he connected people he knew with the characters of that great book. From Jane Davis, founder of The Reader Organisation, we hear of the influence of classic novels and poetry on people attending Get into Reading groups from varied and different backgrounds, and how attending such groups has made enormous and important differences to their lives such as improving literacy and deepening their understanding of who they are as individuals. Dr Maryanne Wolf explores the physical impact of reading on the brain and cites Marcel Proust as someone who: “characterised the ‘heart of reading’ as that moment when ‘that which is the end of their [the author’s] wisdom is but the beginning of ours'”. Nicholas Carr echoes how I feel about reading when he says: “Several studies have shown that reading tends to make us more empathetic, more alert to the inner lives of others. The reader withdraws in order to connect more deeply.” Please read this book if you are a passionate reader and tell me your thoughts.
- Radio 4 Book of the Week: Stop What You’re Doing and Read This! (thereaderonline.co.uk)