19 Jan

“We read to know that we are not alone.”
C.S. Lewis


I’ve had a really good run on books recently. It started with Dead Drop by Jeremy Duns, onto The Real Great Escape by Guy Walters and then I lost my Flashman virginity to George McDonald Fraser. The three of them were fantastic, books I couldn’t put down. I’ve just started Kingsley Amis’s Take a Girl Like You, and while I’m not his biggest fan I’m really enjoying it. Reading all these one after another made me wonder the other night: what do people who don’t read do? The pleasure of books is so great and so all-consuming I just don’t understand how it can be missing from some people’s lives.

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable
that is spelled out is a spark.”
Victor Hugo

I was a slow starter when it came to reading. My mum would read to me every night – Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl,  The Hobbit, and a brilliantly gruesome book which had a bit about ravens flying out of a well and plucking out someone’s eyes – but what really got me reading by myself was The Beano. I loved it. But I was still a little bit behind everyone else at school until year five, when suddenly it hit me. I was an addict. My teacher, Mrs Sharifi, was quite strict and pushed me hard and I wasn’t very happy at school at all, but one day she gave me a proof copy of Beyond The Deepwoods and told me to read it and tell her what I thought. I came back the next day and at first she wouldn’t believe I’d finished it, but I had been so utterly sucked in I had devoured the whole thing in one sitting. A switch had been flicked and I’d discovered how wonderful it was to lose yourself in a book and the world someone had created.

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body
parts you’d most 
like not to lose.”
Neil Gaiman

When I was 17 I went out with an artist who started me reading ‘clever’ books. He would absolutely never read anything I suggested as obviously he knew better than me, but I’m still glad that he was “intellectual” enough to get me into authors like Italo Calvino with If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, Thomas Pynchon with The Crying of Lot 49, Jose Saramago with Blindness, and Cormack McCarthy with The Road. The first book he lent me was Georges Bataille’s Story Of The Eye, which was weird. All these books now sit on my shelves because I have developed an aversion to reading something – whether I liked it or not – and not having it to hand later.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  
Ernest Hemingway

I just like having books around me. I never feel comfortable in a house without books – it feels wrong, that something is missing. Books warm a room, they make somewhere home. As wanky as it sounds, having books means always having somewhere to go, a conversation to join, someone to weep with or laugh with. I sob and sob at the same parts of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin every time I read it because even though I practically know it off by heart, it still takes the wind out of me at each sitting. Tim Moore’s travel books make me laugh out loud over and over even when I know the funniest parts already and Salman Rushdie has me desperately turning pages to find out what happens, even though I can remember from the last time I read one of his books. Whatever is happening in your life at any time you can escape into a book. It doesn’t even have to be a good book, just one that you love. Though then again, that’s what makes a book the best book. That’s the beauty of reading – it’s entirely yours.

“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it,taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.”
Lemony Snicket

I’m sure that admitting this will have many people cringing and feeling like someone is dragging their nails down a chalkboard but I’m not one of those people who keep books pristine. I break their spines, leave them lying face down, I *gasp* write in them. My books get shoved into my handbag and I spill red wine on them and the corners get bent and tear. The books I love the most are tatty and falling apart and while some people would sooner draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa with a Sharpie than let all that happen to their books, it’s simply because I read them. They’re as much a part of my life as my hair is and I treat that a whole lot worse. When I look at my bookshelves I can easily find my favourites because they’re… um…. well loved. Some are falling apart and have been Sellotaped back together and sit next to a newer copy so I can still read them. My dad has bought me several first editions of Evelyn Waugh, and I haven’t read them yet but I’m constantly tempted. I think books are precious and those first editions are special because they haven’t been opened and read, and they’ve been looked after. But books are there to be read and enjoyed, and if they’re not I think that’s far worse than bashing them about a bit. One thing I can safely say though is that I won’t dog ear the pages to keep my place. I’m not an animal.

“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with
somebody and they don’t 
have books, don’t fuck
them. Don’t sleep with people who don’t read!”

 John Waters

So all in all I don’t think I’ll ever understand people who don’t read, or to put it more accurately, how people don’t read. Nothing for me will ever beat the pleasure of have a whole day free, opening a book and sitting down with a cold beer or a glass of wine and knowing that if I want I can finish the whole thing and start another one. That’s the most amazing thing about books: you’ll never read them all. You can be a complete glutton but there’ll always be another book for you to pick up. And every book you read will only ever improve your life.


5 Responses to “Reading”

  1. Geordie Bore January 20, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I too love reading, but I feel I’m guilty of dog earing my books.

  2. Big Ginge's mummy January 20, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    Gormenghast ruined my life

    • Sarah Duggers January 20, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      Great. The fat cat is now my brother?! How? Such a good book.


  1. Next Day Brownies | sarahduggers - January 21, 2014

    […] changed my mind. Sod reading, all I want to spend my time doing is eating these brownies. I’ve called this next day […]


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