Reading Is Bliss
Today's topic could potentially open up a can of worms. A can of literary worms, but still...wriggly worms.
How do you feel about "re-gifting" books? Despite having previously waxed lyrical about how giving people books as gifts can be a bad idea, unless you know the person well, I have been guilty of gifting books in the past. What can I say? I'm a hypocrite. A hypocrite, I tell you!
I have also committed perhaps what is the cardinal sin for readers, that of re-gifting previously read books. Now, I am actually a very tidy reader. I don't dog-ear pages, I don't use books as impromptu drink coasters, I flick the pages carefully rather than blitz through like a reading tornado, and I lovingly dust the covers and edges when I remember to.
The result is that most of my books are in mint condition. They almost always look the same as the day I got them, apart from a few shameful little incidents. I'm looking at you, orange juice of doom.
So in the interest of a full confession, which I have been slowly waddling towards, I have to admit this: I have re-gifted books before. Feel free to come at me with your anvils of judgment!
I stumbled upon this piece about whether the internet has "killed books". It has made me reflect upon my own relationship to reading, and whether my attachment to books as a form is a force of habit.
I suspect it is. Us readers can be a grinchy lot. We hold our belief systems and favourite reading objects near and dear to our hearts. I am a diehard, incurable book girl. Put another way, they'll have to pry my books out of my cold, dead fingers with a crowbar.
I have reluctantly embraced the Kindle and tablet apps for reading. While I find them wonderful inventions in some ways, nothing excites me more than delicately fanning open the covers of a new paper book. People like me are probably the reason why the Amazon rainforest will become extinct soon (I kid, but...)
But the ending of this article both moved and provoked me, if only because I simultaneously agreed and disagreed with it.
"Screen culture isn't replacing book culture, what we're experiencing now is simply a multiplying of the ways we organise information. On an object level, books are becoming more beautiful and experimental. On a subject level, writers as well - never before have we heard from so many different kinds of voices."
If you still haven't heard of Veronice Roth, don't worry, you will soon. The first of her YA Divergent trilogy will hit screens near you later this year.
As a child of the digital age, the first thing I did when I heard about her was hit Google. I learned a few enviable facts.
1. She's only 25
2. She wrote Divergent, the first novel in the trilogy, during summer break at uni
3. Movie rights was sold before she finished uni
I was a little too disheartened to carry on cyber-stalking after that. However, as she's touted as the hot new author to watch out for in one of my favourite genres; post-apocalyptic fiction, I naturally felt that I had no choice but to read the entire Divergent series.
Well literary folk, it's the start of another year! May 2014 provide some fruitful reading for us all.
I hate starting the year on a slightly sour note, but this article where Ruth Rendell laments the fact that reading has become "a specialist activity which only a minority enjoy regularly, rather than something most people do routinely" struck a chord with me.
As an avid reader, most of my friends and acquaintances also read, but I have definitely come across those who confess not just to not being readers, but do so with a kind of hidden pride - as if not reading is a badge of honour.
The article, which also quotes Man Booker-nominated novelist Philip Henscher, who says: "I said in an interview once that you can genuinely tell when you meet a person if they have never read a novel: that there is something missing there. People were outraged that I would even suggest such a thing."
There have been studies done to prove that reading literary fiction actually improves a person's sense of empathy. The study, which involved 1000 participants, used a series of methods to determine that those who read literary fiction (works by Tea Obrecht of The Tiger's Wife fame, or Anton Chekhov), scored consistently higher when it came to identifying emotions in others.
The older that I get, the harder it becomes for a book to really affect me. I'm not sure why.
I've talked before about reading the One Last Wish series as a teen, and really getting into teenage death porn. I used to relish stories that made you cry. I remember being suffused with rage when reading The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill A Mockingbird. I was practically apoplectic with the injustice of it all!
I also had many belly laugh moments when reading books. I don't particularly seek out comedic plotlines, but there were definitely scenes that made me giggle long after the last page had been turned.
Yet having gone back to some of those books, I find it difficult to muster up the same depth of feeling. Who has the energy when you're working full-time and have so many commitments outside of work??
What sparked this entry originally was my attempt to read Mitch Albom's latest book, The First Phone Call From Heaven. First of all, I want to make it clear that there's nothing actually wrong with the book. It's as well crafted as any of his other stories. But whereas Tuesdays With Morrie made me sniffle and The Five People You Meet in Heaven made me sob, I was irritated with this particular tale.
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