Growing up my mom used to read to me every night. When I got older and began being able to read by myself, I would read to her. Then older yet, I would read on my own before bed, begging to finish a chapter before lights out… because let’s face it you need to finish that chapter, you can’t let it sit there.
Ever since, I was hooked. Reading was something fun to do that lets you see into a different world. I read a quote once that said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
And it’s true, each page can transport you into the world that the author was creating when they wrote the book. One of my favourite books is “Shantaram,” by Gregory David Roberts. Reading it I felt as though I was walking beside him on his journey through India. It was extremely well written and I absolutely fell in love with the book which was nearly 1,000 pages long. I was travelling by train in Australia when I picked up the book and in a matter of a few days I had finished it.
I discovered, however, probably 10 years ago that not everyone reads in that fashion. When I read, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I allow my imagination to take the author’s words and turn those words into a world of its own. I found out from someone who doesn’t like reading that for them reading is simply words on a page. For them, they weren’t able to shift those words into a world to walk through. To me that seemed devastating because I had visited so many places between the pages of the books I read.
Although I absolutely love travelling and seeing things for myself, there are certain things a book can provide which real life cannot. I’m fascinated by history, so if I want to learn about the world during a certain time period there’s nothing better than walking through someone else’s shoes. A good author who has done their research can provide this. I was fascinated by the Soviet Union and thanks to Tom Rob Smith’s trilogy I was able to follow a former MGB agent through the country, experiencing what that world would have been like to live in.
Reading novels from earlier time periods can also provide insight into their world. I remember reading Erskine Childers’ “The Riddle of the Sands.” A spy novel written prior to World War I, the book carried with it a lot of sentiments of the time; mainly that war with Germany was on the horizon and that Britain should be prepared. It was in fact written in 1903 which was during the Anglo-German naval arms race (1898-1912), thus depicted society at the time it was written.
I find all of this to be quite fascinating and it’s part of the reason I enjoy reading. There can be so much in a book and I find it an interesting exercise of the imagination to learn through this means.
Sadly because of the work I do, I don’t read as much as I’d like to. I am always looking at words and writing, so reading isn’t my go to when I’m not working although I feel like this year I’ve been better than in years past to grab a book rather than turn on the television.