Saturday, 4 August 2012

In praise of reading

With the exception of a couple of years during which I was indulging in the inadvisable yet inevitable act of drinking and imbibing substances that I would wholly recommend you keep away from, unless you enjoy having a really good time while being mentally free from all the usual worries and concerns of every day life, the only common thread I can identify throughout my life is a continued and relentless urge to read.

Circumstances may change, people may leave, others die, jobs are lost and found, boyfriends come and go, love sort of half experienced a couple of times - whatever love means anyway - and a river of pointless tears cried over petty trivialities, but the one thing I've always been able to rely on is reading.

With access to books, I can withstand anything. I read self help books, philosophy, history, fiction, funny books, sad books, books about grief, love, life, loss and stupid books with happy endings. Ridiculous steam punk books, kids books, some books I read over and over. Some have characters more familiar and comforting to me than many real life people in my world. I read books that inspire me, books that make me wonder how the fuck they ever got published, badly written books, books about diets I will never finish and marathons I will most likely never run. Books to help me through the worst times in my life and books that always help me forget.

Reading is something no one can ever take away from me, and one of the only things in life other than being asleep and attending to bodily necessities, is totally private. It's one of the few things that guarantee people will leave you alone. It's an escape from the shit in my head. It's mentally enriching, mind expanding, comforting, sometimes sleep inducing. It's a calming balm to my ever twisting soul and one of the enduring pleasures of being alive.

And the best thing about it is it will always be there. I know I can't read all the books in the world during my short time on earth. And even that is comforting. It's a pleasure that will never run out.

The first thing I do every time a boy inexplicably swerves from lovely to invisible/horrible/suddenly with someone.else is read.

When my dad died, on the same day, I read. I couldn't concentrate on most things but I found weird succour in reading recipes over and over. A couple of days later saw me frantically searching book shops for anything to help me work out how the hell I was going to deal with what was happening. A world that constantly shifts beneath your feet, with nothing to anchor you down, needs the words of other people, many long dead, to show you that you're not alone. That some other people think like you and feel like you and all is never lost.

The written word is everything. We can read books written hundreds of years before we were born. They were here before us and they will remain after us. The written word and freedom of expression is what makes us human and make us learn.

Through bereavement, breakdown, holidays, happy times, relaxed times, the best of times and the worst of times, I have been places and felt things that I could never dream of outside of the written word.

This year, and right now more than ever, I am grateful for my books, for the people who wrote them and for the respite they bring.

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