Blog 2 Feb 2018
If a nation’s literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays. – Ezra
My relief that books have not succumbed to the internet age is fathomless. Not only are books still being written, printed and read, even digital and audio books are sought after and enjoyed by millions of people. This in 2018, years after we were told that books were headed for the dustbin.
Books have survived the predictions that Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 had descended upon us and would spell the end of reading, indeed, the desire to read. While it is true that politics has played a part in fears of reprisal – some countries having imposed more and more censorship on their population, in spite of the dictatorial leanings of many governments, people dare to read through the centuries. “Dare” is not too melodramatic as we know from first-hand accounts, many people risk execution, imprisonment and exile for reading anything deemed unacceptable by various strong men, clergy and others around the world.
Why read? Outside of those documents required for work, why do we read for pleasure? What do we discover in the pages of a book that will have any significance in our own lives? I believe that reading places us eye to eye with ideas, propositions and positions we oppose or never contemplated in a safe, non-aggressive and non-judgmental manner. This means of facing alien or threatening ideas without the pressure of engaging an actual interlocutor whose argument might incite or offend, allows me the space to calmly study my own stance and change, reject, retain or modify without losing face.
Reading elicits other emotions in addition to those immediately arising from the page. Engaging with a book could be considered a bit anti-social. Once I am reading, I am in a world of my own. I will carry a book around the house on the chance I might have a few minutes to continue reading. I’ll take a book to all my appointments in case there is a long wait. I even took a book to read as a child when the family went on rides when I should have been paying attention to the landscape and villages in the countries we lived in. I regret that now.