Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Dear Books

Dear Books,

I feel like you're disappearing. Slowly but surely I can see you fading from the world around me and it makes my heart break. When my parents were young, and then when I was little, you'd get on a bus or a train or stand at the bus stop and people would be there, waiting, travelling...reading. Newspapers, books, autobiographies, novels. You name it, it was being read. Now? Now, you get on that bus or that train or walk to that bus shelter and what are people doing? Staring at their phones. They're playing 'Candy Crush' or scrolling aimlessly through Facebook.


Hang on...

Stop the press.

Is that?

No! It can't be!

Is that a paperback someone has in their hand! What do they think they're doing? Reading! On a train. Someone fetch me a camera! Call the newspapers. Don't leave out a single detail...

Books from my childhood <3
It's heartbreaking.

You are something that I have loved since before a time that I can properly remember. If it wasn't mum or dad reading to me before the lights went out, putting on all the character voices and taking me into a whole new world, then it was me, snuggled up under my duvet, my audience of teddy bears, reading to myself. It was me, coming home from school, and putting my homework aside for a little while to relax with a book or me, desperate for a bath just so I could spend that extra half an hour or so, soaking in bubbles, cup of tea on the side, a book in hand. I honestly don't know what I'd do without you. I don't understand what people do do with without you...but they do.

My reading pile so far!
I grew up with a mix of friends. Some read and some couldn't stand the idea. Library lessons would take place once a week, our English class marching up to that heavenly room and spending an entire 50 or so minutes just reading. Grab a book, pick a beanbag, and curl up, away from the textbooks and the spelling tests. Away from the world. That's what I'd try to do anyway. Meanwhile, most of the class would likely be, picking a book..."no, 'Hello' magazine doesn't count"...finding a beanbag and putting the book down. They'd be talking, giggling, doodling. Dear God!


Some might even grab a book, stand it upright in front of themselves and get out their phone. Playing whatsitcalled on a device that is almost the size of the book they could be reading instead.

Now I'm not saying I don't appreciate technology. I do. I have a smart phone and I'm writing on a laptop as I speak. But there's a time and a place. There's a whole world of writing out there. Stories that someone has written to share with us: me and you. Stories about their lives, or the lives of people they know. Stories about this world, another world, our country, theirs. Reality, fantasy, fiction or fact. It's not like a one size fits all type situation. As my dad would say:

'You can't say you don't like cheese! There's so many different types! Different flavours, textures, there isn't just one cheese!'

There isn't just one of you. I'm not a great fan of fantasy. I much prefer reading about real people or fiction based in a world that I could imagine, or even visit, if I wanted to. Real people, real lives, realistic events. At a stretch, I'll read about an alternate world. Something futuristic but where the people feel real. Where I could imagine that this scenario really could happen!

You're an insight into a whole other place. An escape route away from the world and life we're living. That's why I couldn't deal with studying English Literature at University. Why, as soon as my first lecture was over, I knew I'd made a mistake. For me, books are a way of relaxing. They're a de-stress when I'm distressed. I can empty my mind of the troubles I'm feeling in my own world and go and enter someone elses. No need to ask questions, or guess their meaning. Forget my life and live someone elses for a little while...what could be better?

Dad's Penguin Collection
No, seriously. That's an honest question because I really do struggle with comprehending the answer. I get that there's tv and films, there's theatre (which I love) - all escapes from reality. But how many of those are so accessible, You don't need to know anything else apart from the ability to read. You don't have to be able to use that complicated remote thingimigig or pay lots of money for a seat...although if you've got a ticket going spare......all you need is you, a comfy bed or sofa, armchair or even the floor, a cup of tea (if you're me) and a good book! Join the library and the book is free! Free! That's £0 and 0p....$0 if you're american...0 Euros if you're European. Free! Zilch! Nothing! Nada! I can get as many books as I like for the rest of my lifetime...assuming libraries still exist...and never pay a penny.

But that's the fear. The biggest of all. As Amazon continue throwing out kindles, making them even fancier, turning them into ipads with the occasional ability to read a book on them...other companies will follow. Books will be slowly flattened until the pages no longer exist. Until you can hold it in one hand and control the television with the other. Until instead of the smell of a new book as you open the first page, you'll get the smell of...overheating wires as you charge your electrical devices...or the smell of more money as these big cooperation's get richer and richer and bookshops and libraries fade into dust.

We live in a world now where my 7 year old niece would rather play on my phone than read with me. Where 10 year olds are getting the latest iphone for their birthday and have never set foot inside a library.

Our London collection...or some of it
We live in a world where you are dying.

This chapter is ending and you, the book, are coming to your conclusion.

I want to change that ending.

Keep reading,

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