Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
Features Writer
10:20 AM 4th October 2019

The Joy of Reading

I always thought that it was particular authors whose books took me a while to get into, but more and more I find it’s most books - almost like being introduced to someone new; you have to get to know them – a few polite niceties then you know if you have clicked or not. If you have, the conversation flows easily and when the time comes, you are sad to leave. This pretty much defines my reading habit.

How to find new books to read, though? Bookshops obviously; there is nothing better, particularly on a damp and miserable day, than to spend time browsing the shelves full of pristine books just waiting for someone to buy them. Later, sitting down in quiet comfort and turning to that first page,there is always an air of excited anticipation.

Having recently retired, I have explored my local library. Confession time: it’s years since I have been to a public library and what a transformation! No more the fierce, usually female, librarian hissing at people to ‘shush’, or the gloom of dark wood-panelled shelves groaning with the weight of thousands of dusty or dog-eared tomes. Now, bright, light, wifi-enabled rooms beckon you in with comfy reading chairs or desks for those who want to work, with coffee on tap and a wealth of activities to engage all ages, advertised on posters around the walls. It is quiet, but not with that oppressive atmosphere of years gone by. It is a revelation, and in the words of Arnie, ‘I’ll be back’.

Charity bookshops spread the love and even surgeries and local cafes have book boxes lurking on shelves and in corners these days – and not just for children. Book swap shelves are popping up everywhere.

Of course, it’s finding what to read which can be hard, given the plethora of new publications. Recommendations are obviously best, and not only on this site, though the variety covered here is remarkable. Recently, I have seen Facebook challenges suggesting one book a day for ten days – no reasons or explanations - and the baton is then passed on to someone new. Good reads are highlighted by those who have devoured them, and confirmed by those who comment!

The book club (not just on Radio 2 and 4) is on the rise, it seems. Often, groups of ladies (though not exclusively) who confess to drinking Prosecco and gossiping as much as reading, share a sociable afternoon or evening; someone else’s suggestion may inspire you to read something you might not necessarily have chosen for yourself and so broadens your outlook. I can only applaud anything which encourages people to read.

In this day and age of computer games and social media, where the concentration span of a child with a book in their hands can be that of a gnat, it is great to see adults leading by example and enjoying a quiet half hour, reading. It’s a great way to relieve stress and escape, if only briefly, the hassles of daily life. And it seems that I am not alone in thinking this way. A bit like buying a red car and suddenly noticing all the red cars on the road, the day after I wrote this piece I spotted a newspaper article which cited Julia Donaldson, author of that fabulous children’s book, The Gruffalo, as saying that children naturally absorb the habits of their parents and that all parents should read in order to set an example. And I say, ‘Hear hear!’

As for all those electronic devices, well, one day, the machine might stop and then where would we be? But that is another article to watch for.