This is a book that I think all book-lovers would appreciate. I’m sure all readers have a story about how they got into reading, what reading means for them, how it has affected them, inspired them and so on.
This is a very short book, just under 100 pages long. Each chapter begins with a quotation about reading from a famous writer, such as G.K. Chesterton, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman.
What I like about Quindlen is that she sees the merit in all genres of literature, be they chick lit, sci-fi or classic literature. Each genre serves a purpose and it’s not for us to judge people who read so-called “low-brow” literature, though I don’t think I could take anyone seriously who says that Anastasia from the 50 Shades of Grey series is a good role model for women. I’m sure there are lots of book snobs who compete with each other on books they have read, looking to read the most obscure books ever (book hipsters maybe?) but in my opinion, reading isn’t supposed to be a competition but an enjoyable part of life.
Reading the book, there was so much I could relate to. One quote in particular really resonated with me:
“There is something in the American character that is even hostile to the act of aimless reading, a certain hale and heartiness that is suspicious of reading as anything more than a tool for advancement.”
Why did that resonate with me? Probably due to questions I’ve been asked such as “Why do you read so much?” Or, “If you must read, why not read non-fiction? What’s the merit in reading fiction?” And of course let’s not forget my “favourite” sentiment- “You read to escape the world.” Hmm…..
And as for the sentiment that fiction is a waste of time, that’s a topic I could go on and on about. Suffice to say, fiction has been very important in my life. In particular, the fiction books I read as a child have shaped me more than any other books have. From the Asterix comic book series came my love for travel, foreign cuisine and language. Enid Blyton introduced me to even more travel, albeit to fantasy lands. Roald Dahl and Edward Lear introduced me to poetry and helped me, unbeknownst to myself at the time, appreciate rhythm, alliteration, wit and word choice in poetry.
To end with another great quote:
“I am not alone. I am surrounded by words that tell me who I am, why I feel what I feel. Or maybe they just help me while away the hours as the rain pounds down on the porch roof, taking me away from the gloom and on to somewhere sunny, somewhere else.”
Indeed, where would I be without books in Vancouver, the city of perpetual rainfall!