Why do you have soooooo many books? You are too fond of them!
Well, I love reading and I love having a selection of books around me.
But, Mummy, why don’t you just read them rather than sleeping?
This short exchange with my son (almost 7) early yesterday morning made me think about why I read and what stops me from reading as much as I’d like.
As a full time mum, you might think that I’d have plenty of time to catch up with the literary treasues gathering on my bookcases. But no. Perhaps it’s because I have two children, a house and a husband to manage that reading comes lower than I’d like in my daily priorities. For about 12 hours a day, I’m a combination of entertainer, teacher, cook, housemaid, organiser, taxi driver and cook. When evening comes, there are still jobs to do, in addition to the temptations of the computer and television before I can settle down to reading.
So, why do I define myself by what I read; why is it – as my son said-‘my hobby’?
Although I can’t remember when I started to read, I’ve always been lucky enough to have plenty of books of my own. I am an only child and most of my entertainment came from reading as much and as many stories as I could. Apparently one of my favourite toys in my buggy was a tattered copy of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Pigling Bland. My birthday is less than a month before Christmas; I looked forward to the ‘glut’ of books or book tokens I received every December (and the resulting thank you letters to dutifully write). I loved visiting my local library and always borrowed the maximum number of library books allowed; it was like an Aladdin’s cave, as many books as I wanted, for free. I spent many break times and lunch hours in secondary school reading in the library. I would read anything and everything. I became obsessed with the Brontes but was too young to understand DH Lawrence. I found it a thrill when an obscure book was last checked out before I was born.
I love the way books are able to transport the reader; you’re only limited by your imagination, what you can visualise through the author’s words. I love entering into someone else’s life, hearing their thoughts, seeing the world through their eyes. It’s a private, intense experience too; unlike a film, you can control the pace of a scene, and rewind whenever you want.
Books are a uniquely intense, personal and private way of experiencing the world and interpreting other’s experiences. I have learnt so much about the world through what others have written.
Many an evening, I seruptitiously turned my light back on, only to quickly click it off again when I heard my mum coming upstairs). Well I remember straining to read just one more chapter in the fading evening light or from the landing illumination. Then, the power of a story was stronger than the desire to sleep.
Unfortunately nowadays, I too often succumb too often to the lure of tv narrative or the pull of sleep. I still pile up books from my fantastic local library and am a regular patron of charity shops for secondhand bargains.
But, they are still my guilty pleasure, obsession, method of relaxation, hobby.
I hope that one day my son – and daughter – will understand the joy of reading so much. And why I would sometimes rather be reading than playing Lego or a dolls’ tea party. But only occasionally.