One of the problems, it seems to me, is that we've got it into our heads that books should be hard work, and that unless they're hard work, they're not doing us any good.In each column Hornby lists his books read and books bought and discusses his reading, so I'll do the same:
... If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity - and there are statistics which show that this is by no means assured - then we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits. I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. but please, if you're reading a book that's killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren't enjoying a TV programme. Your failure to enjoy a highly rated novel doesn't mean you're dim. ... All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it.
... reading for enjoyment is what we all should be doing. I don't mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that's what you want to read, it's fine by me, because here's something no one will ever tell you: if you don't read the classics or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud. the whole purpose of books is that we read them, and ifyou find you can't, it might not be your inadequacy that's to blame. 'Good' books can be pretty awful sometimes.
My books most recently bought:
Silverfish New Writing 6 - ed. Dipika Mukherjee
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby
The Book of Lost Books - Stuart Kelly
The New York Trilogy, Oracle Nights - Paul Auster
None finished this week. Book hopping. Am reading simulataneously Auster's New York Trilogy, Silverfish New Writing 6, Filipino writer Jessica Zafra's collection of short fiction Manananggal Terrorizes Manila (many thanks, Sky) and Ziauddin Sardar's Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim (thanks Zia).
So ... how about you?
Lydia's right (in the comments) ... I really should have linked Daphne Lee's very nice piece on much the same topic in Starmag yesterday: she talks about Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader, and provides a link to a lovely downloadable poster with illustrations by Quentin Blake (right). And this she says to parents:
... don’t even think in terms of knowledge-gained, increased-vocabulary or improved reading-skills. All that will come, I assure you, but don’t make it the reason you buy your kids books or encourage them to read. You don’t want your children to view books with apprehension, but with joy. You want them to see reading as an enjoyable activity. ... The list of rights says that the reader is the only one who has a say in what, where, when and how he reads. It says it’s OK to relax with a book; it’s OK to be lazy with a book; it’s OK to escape into a book; be loud with a book; and be silent with a book. It’s all good so long as you’re having a good time.Postscript 2:
cw posted an interesting response to this post.