The first post of 2016, accompanied by apologies that I haven't posted sooner-I find time management particularly tricky this time of year but that's a topic for another day.
Today, I wanted to share a favourite quote from a writer I treasure. Her body of work is magnificent and if I'm ever half the writer she is, I shall consider myself lucky.
"Books help to form us. If you cut me open, you will find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow transmuted and transformed into me. Alice in Wonderland. The Magic Faraway Tree. The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Book of Job. Bleak House. Wuthering Heights. The Complete Poems of W H Auden. The Tale of Mr Tod. Howard''s End. What a strange person I must be. But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA."
I came across this quote from Susan Hill a few years ago after I first read her beautiful book Howards End is on the Landing. The volume chronicles a year of reading from home and was a joy to read from start to finish. She has so many insightful things to say about books and reading and the effect of stories on our humanity but this was the notion that struck me the most and I return to it again and again.
It makes me wonder about my own literary DNA and what it might include. A hefty dose of Enid Blyton from my younger days. Little Women. The Complete Works of Jane Austen. The Jamica Inn, certainly. Rebecca. Harry Potter. The Remains of the Day. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey.
In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of a single book that hasn't left its mark, even if I didn't love or even like it. Because the things we don't like define us as much as those we do.
So, when people say they don't have time to read, it worries me. No time to read means no time to grow; no time to learn, to improve, to question. No time to develop as a human being.
I'm not naive. For my part, reading is essential. Much like eating or washing or making the bed, it's part of my daily routine. It takes a bigger effort for some but it's absolutely an effort worth making. Reading helps us understand the world and our place in it- I'm fairly certain books don't have all the answers but they're a great place to start.
So, the next time you think you don't have time to read, stop and think. Is it true that you genuinely don't have five minutes to spare for the words on the page, or does it go a little deeper? Perhaps you're afraid that you'll never get the answers to the really big questions. Or perhaps you're afraid that you will.
Until next time...