Saturday, 5 November 2011

The joy of reading

Although I have a lot of very early memories of my childhood (eg going to the zoo at 15 months old) I can't actually remember learning to read. It seems odd that learning something which is as necessary to me as food and drink could leave absolutely no imprint on my memory! I could no more stop reading than I could voluntarily stop breathing. I am always puzzled by people who say they have no time to read because it's not something I have to set aside time for - it's just a normal part of my day. There have been times in my life when I have read less than at others but I can honestly say that there hasn't been a day in my adult life that I haven't read something.

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, particular favourites were Heidi, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and the Narnia series but I also loved the Famous Five, Biggles and all the classics - Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island etc etc. I still regularly re-read the first 4 mentioned. I feel the mark of a great children's book is that it can still be enjoyed as an adult. I could write reams about books I have loved but don't want to bore the pants off anyone reading this!

My Mum introduced me to a lot of books and, in turn, I introduced those same books to my children and hope to do so to my granddaughters, although I expect my daughter will be making her own introductions. The thrill of getting book tokens for Christmas and birthdays was immense and I still have very many of my purchases to hand on to the girls when they are old enough.

I have to confess that the majority of my reading is fiction, with the odd biography/autobiography thrown in, and none of it very intellectual, but I read purely for entertainment - I don't want to be educated. I am happy to have my thoughts provoked by whatever I am reading but sometimes I just want to switch off and let it just wash over me.

One of my major concerns about moving to France was how I was going to support my reading habit. I used to go to the library every week and borrowed up to half a dozen books at a time, but I certainly couldn't afford to buy that many. I stocked up on books from charity shops before the move and once I'd read those I started to re-read many old favourites. I picked up odd books at car boot sales here and all visitors were obliged to bring a stack of books with them but I was constantly running out of things to read.

Two years ago, I solved the problem by starting a monthly English bookswap. I started with 20 books of my own and ended the first one with 65 books. This number gradually crept up until I had around 700 books stacked in boxes behind the sofa! It was getting out of hand so we bought a huge bookcase (see photo above), weeded out all the rubbish and now have a rule that everyone must take away at least as many books as they bring! I always have something to read now and I read many authors I had never previously tried. The bookswap is a great social occasion and I have made many friends through it.

Reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life - it makes me laugh and cry, challenges my thinking, comforts me when I am down and, as a side benefit, has given me an excellent vocabulary - invaluable when learning another language!


  1. I could have written this!!

    But I also want to know whose work can't you wait to read? Do you remember what you have read a month later? Do you worry if you can't?

  2. I've just finished "The Girls" by Lori Lansens (about conjoined twins) and I can't wait to read more by her. Also Victoria Hislop ("The Island" and "The Return") and would love to read more of hers.

    I read very quickly and rarely remember much the day after I've finished a book, much less a month later, but the advantage of that is that I can read books again if I've really enjoyed them!

  3. Have you bought a Kindle yet? I was bought one as a Christmas present 2 years ago and being like yourself an avid reader i was a bit unsure about not holding a book and turning the pages but i can honestly say im over the moon with it. I currently have about 3000 books waiting to be read and im going through them at a rate of knots!! When you enter the electronic age ill send you a disc with them all on for your pleasure x