I don’t really recall a time when I did not enjoy reading. A trip to the Marsaxlokk fish market would see me carrying a stack of new Enid Blytons while everyone else was haggling over the octopus still inching its way to freedom. I was the “nerdy” class librarian who conversed better with books than with anyone else, and who annoyed her siblings when at dinner time, and with my book propped against the centrepiece, I’d be too immersed in my Narnian adventures to take stock of anything else. I still do occasionally. And I can proudly say I’ve mastered the art of eating anything with one hand while holding the book open with the other.
Yes, I’m a reader – through and through. I don’t know what brought this fervent desire to write about one of the oldest pastimes in history (OK, not THE oldest). Maybe it was the sudden reviving of the Book Box project my friends and I had dedicated so much time to more than two years ago (if you have no idea what that is, then you should definitely check the link out). Or maybe I just feel the need to share my thoughts, in the hope that non-readers – who still list reading as one of their hobbies in their CV because let’s face it, it has its uses – stop shunning the book. Or at least, stop thinking we’re boring, lonely creatures. Because you’d be very, very wrong.
1. Readers Empathise.
I suppose it’s the open mind which reading perpetuates. Reading is very much like travelling in that sense – we broaden horizons and we encounter people and stories so different to our own. We become more understanding and tolerant because, in a funny sort of way, we’ve been through it already. We lived it, through eyes of a fictional character and the swirls of ink on paper.
2. Readers can hold proper conversations about so many topics, it’s astounding.
Truly. We can talk about the Italian Renaissance as if it was a thing of last year. Why? We were with Leonardo DaVinci while he painted the MonaLisa of course. We walked with Moses for forty years in the desert, and saw the tribulations they went through. We looked on in dismay as Jay Gatsby’s life spins out of control, despite his wealth, charm and his famous, rare smile. We’ve shaken hands with Churchill, cast spells with Harry, watched as Dorian Grey’s portrait became a nightmarish reminder of the ugliness of sin. We can be anywhere, with anyone we choose and we can hold our own, whatever the topic. Rest assured, we’ll know of a little curious or spicy trivia to add to any conversation. Something we’ve “read, but can’t remember where.” True story.
3. Readers are richer than the people who decide not to spend money on books.
And that’s a fact. The places we’ve been to, both in this world and beyond, the mentors we’ve come across on pages, the values we’ve been taught and the adventures we’ve had – swashbuckling, tip-toeing, waltzing and flying through pages – are invaluable. They are priceless because they have given us so much more than something to hold. They’ve given us something to live by, to teach to others, to pass on. A book is forever, not in its physical weight. Paper will disintegrate, Kindles can break, and all the safeguarding in the world will not stop the decay of time. No, a book is forever in the imprint it leaves on us. We are different than we were before we picked up the book. Like our friend Tyrion says, “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whet-stone”. There’s no if or when or I’d rather watch the Kardashians. Honestly. Just do it for yourself.
And I know I said three reasons, but I couldn’t keep the fourth from slipping…
4. Reading is Sexy. Period.
A beautiful mind is the sexiest thing alive. I promise.