Just on the off chance it has escaped your notice, today is World Book Day. It’s also St David’s Day, but I’m without a leek to my name, and I have plenty of books.
I love reading. It’s one of the greatest joys in life to be able to escape into a book, where your imagination is coupled with that of the writer to weave together a unique kind of magic. I’ve read vociferously throughout my life, and it’s a credit to my parents that they fed my appetite for words with tolerance, as for many years my nose was stuck in a book or, if forcibly removed, my mind would be elsewhere.
One of my favourite summers was when I was 12. I don’t remember anything other than swinging in the hammock my brother bought me for my birthday, accompanied by a book. That was the summer of classics – from Frankenstein’s Dracula to Pride and Prejudice, via Of Mice and Men and at least one Dickens. There was no particular reason for this, merely that my school had, for some reason, issued a list of the books they thought appropriate for 11-18 year old girls, by year. I decided to see this as a challenge and read all of them. I’m not sure that’s quite what the school librarian, a redoubtable and terrifying but actually very sweet lady, had in mind. I countered the culture over the rest of my school years by the way. I developed a fondness for Delderfield, was confused by Susan Howatch, fell in love with Maeve Binchy and out of love with Steinbeck.
It wasn’t until university that I discovered cook books make fine reading. If I had to nominate my favourites to curl up with, The Art of the Tart by Tamsin Day-Lewis, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, and Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy all nuture the soul as well as the stomach. All bring back evocative memories of dinners shared, and friends laughed with, as well as being a source for new inspiration.
To me, there’s no such thing as a bad book. There may be books I don’t enjoy, some which don’t interest me, others which just don’t appeal for some reason. Even the ones I dislike because of the writing style or characters are just adding to my mental bank of knowledge, downtime or relaxation. I often say that the quality of the literature on my bedside table speaks more about how much is going on in my brain than the author – if my mind is busy, I want old friends or easy reading to wind down with. Conversely, I tend to want to be more challenged when life is slightly quieter.
One person’s bad book is another’s pride and joy. Who am I to judge? Keep an open mind. With Kindles, no one can tell if you’re catching up on the Chalet School series, reading War and Peace, or working your way through the Booker shortlist.