In 2017, I helped a colleague and friend finish his first ever novel – Catch 22, a novel I myself had never read. I constantly kept on pestering- what’s the update on the book? How many pages did you read today? Sometimes he told me how exciting it was to read that particular chapter. And it was amazing, but it wasn’t easy. After months, he finally finished the book and called it an achievement. I’m glad I played a small part by helping him start his reading journey, by recommending a book, which turned out to be a little difficult to be suggested as a starter. A good deed accomplished in the year gone by.
I discovered reading very early in life. My family is a collection of massive bookworms. My mother introduced me to Chinese literature and my father to Russian. They are both avid book readers and we all hope to set up our tiny little library someday. I love visiting bookstores as much as people love dropping by in cafes, and when I see children in book stores, it makes me extremely happy.
I vividly remember a day from my school library. Our librarian had awarded points to classes that borrowed the most number of books and pasted the results on the green notice board just outside the library. I might have been in grade 8 or 9. I checked to see where my class stood. And I stood there, heartbroken. The class that borrowed most of the books were grade 4 and 5. The points got smaller and smaller as the grades increased in number. Don’t ask me what my class secured. I don’t remember to be honest. But it was low enough to make me sad. One plausible explanation might be the proximity of the famous/infamous grade 10 examination. As students approach higher grades much of their focus goes into studying course materials. This approach might not necessarily be wrong, but it reflects a behavior, a trend that as we get older, we may begin to read very little. Priorities bigger than grade 10 examinations are bound to pop up and catch us unguarded. This might of course not be true for everyone. But the important aspect here is that if given access and opportunity, children read and they discover the power of books. Why should it be any different for grown ups, especially when we have access to so much more?
The school library had always been my best resource place. I remember how poorly I read when I was in grade 11 and 12, when my new school barely had anything else but textbooks. It didn’t feel like I was losing anything then, but when I rediscovered another library in university, I realized how I missed the magic of books and how I wish I could go back and reutilize that lost time.
One of my favorite places in my university was the library. It was a beautiful place, had ample sunlight. But most importantly it was quiet and sadly very few student visited it, and perhaps ironically that was the reason I loved it. It was never crowded. This takes me back to my school and the terrifying statistics of borrowing books our school librarian had discovered and pasted on the green notice board.
But why read? Why waste that precious moment digging up words, instead of gold?
There internet is filled with wonderful reasons on why to read, from scientific to aesthetic. Here are mine.
A book is a conversation, a conversation that is well planned and prepared with determination and dedicated on the part of the writer. I think it’s a beautiful conversation. It’s not one way as you might think. A book is a two way conversation. It is like conversing with a friend, a connection that words fail to describe. It is a feeling, like that when you sit down with a friend, new or old, in a cafe with a latte and apple pie placed in front of you. It is a moment, one that is different with each friend. And you speak too, as you feel new and old emotions, discover and rediscover old and new ideas. Indeed, it is a two way conversation.
A book is also an escape, into the imaginable and the unfathomable. It is a reality and a lie. But it is beautiful just the same. It is time enclosed carefully into words by its creator. In other words, it is magic. There is no reason why you should deny yourself of this magic that is so readily available.
But a book is also labor put into time. It is difficult, demands patience and sometimes may leave you fuming at the end. A conversation with a friend might go any way. But you’d still go and meet a friend. Because that’s what we do! Yes, that’s what we do.
That’s exactly how a book is like, a friend.
In Neil Gaiman’s words, “You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”
But if you haven’t started reading yet, do not worry and begin, or as JK Rowling says, “If you do not like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” And the only way to find it, is to find it!
It’s great to know that my friend who just began reading in 2017, with a lot of trouble, has now bought two new books. You just need a bit of the magic dust, and the rest as they say is history!
I hope you find yours very soon.
Happy World Book Day 2018!
P.S. The image above is my little attempt at virtual drawing some time back, also from 2017.