August 25, 2013

Read Now! Don’t Stop!

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What is the issue?

It’s kinda sad when I think about how I have included reading books into my to do list before I turn 35.

Wasn’t there a time, before all this technology overtook our lives that we just enjoyed reading books? Actual books made from paper. Sometimes, if you saved enough, you could afford a hardcover but if you didn’t, it would be paperbacks and how even then, the quality of paper used for the paperbacks also equated to how expensive it was?

And that was just aesthetics…getting a book that was a real page turner was such simple joy and pure excitement. Staying up way past bedtime to just get to the end of the chapter, making a mental promise to end just there, but ooh, what a cliffhanger and you ended up reading the next chapter…and the next…till it was merely 3 hours before you had to wake up for school. But you were young so what’s 3 hours of sleep gonna do?

But at the same time, getting a stinker of a book drew the opposite reaction. Of pure unadulterated disappointment and betrayal, the kind only you could feel as a child. Yet, you wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t believe the beautiful cover that you thought held an intricate world of espionage and adventure would be a wet blanket of a disappointment. So you push on, page after agonizing page, hoping that the author would suddenly awaken from their uncreative slumber and spin the story around, revealing the tantalizing lure of a hidden plot that you knew was there all along. Alas, when you come to the end of the book, the last 10 pages and you know it’s not going to happen. But you don’t give up and race through to the finish line, finally victorious and now having the right of tossing the book aside, never having to cast another eye on it again.

Then there was the unofficial book clubs – ones that were formed out of a shared love for an author or series of books. It began with the amazing adventures of the Famous Five, or Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys then slowly as adolescence took over, it was Sweet Valley High and anything from Judy Blume. Inside, we discovered the world of boyfriends and girlfriends, of kissing and broken hearts. Of loneliness and friendships. Then we moved on…some going separate ways as we developed our personalities further – science fiction to the left, romance novels to the right; mystery and thrillers and biographies filled up the rest. We jumped from one genre to another, enticed by friends and seemingly impossible plots that we would never fall for but eventually succumbed, discovering new worlds beyond our own. Before long, the die hard sci-fi reader was sneaking romance novels under her desk, another convert; and vice versa.

But before we hit our adulthood, technology started creeping in. Stealthily it moved and slowly we set our books down for this fascinating world. One that took less time and instead of a flick, it was a click. Every now and then, we would pick our books up, but less and less until it remained on the table, untouched.

The only hope was that we still enjoyed buying books. The covers drew us in, the praises for the plots and the idea of actually reading still being seen as an intellectual event. But who are we kidding. The books we buy lay in its plastic after being brought home. Now, sitting on the shelves, it has become décor, glorified paperweights, intellectual art. Conversation starter pieces which elicit nervous laughs and sometimes honest replies of ‘I actually haven’t read it.’

It isn’t too late though. Blow off the dust. Rip off the plastic. Turn off the machines. And just turn the cover to the first page. And keeping turning till you come to the end.

Read. Now. Don’t. Stop. TC mark

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image – Simon Cocks
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