Friday, 22 January 2016

Wonderful observations on the power and importance of books and reading

St AugustineIt’s a horrible day so I’ve been cheering myself up with some great reflections on books and reading, appropriately illustrated by this picture, seen in King’s College London. (Check here for lots more inspiring quotes.)

I love this, from The History Boys by Alan Bennett:
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

This is an extract from The Beckoning Silence by Joe Simpson:
“It occurred to me that the only reason I was here was because of reading; it was the reason I began to climb. There is something about reading which takes you beyond the constrictions of space and time, frees you from the limitations of social interaction and allows you to escape. Whoever you encounter within the pages of a book, whatever lives you vicariously live with them can affect you deeply – entertain you briefly, change your view of the world, open your eyes to a wholly different concept of living and the value of life. Books can be the immortality that some seek; thoughts and words left for future generations to hear from beyond the grave and awaken a memory of another’s life.”

Here’s Matt Haig:
“Reading isn’t important because it helps get you a job. It’s important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. Reading makes the world better. It is how humans merge. Empathy. Reading is love in action.”

I’ve quoted this from Kofi Annan before, but it’s worth any number of repetitions:
“Literacy is the bridge from misery to hope.”

Tanya Landman memorably said this when she won last year’s Carnegie Award:
“Someone who reads for pleasure is far less likely to be a bully or a bigot. They are far less likely to cause harm to others because they can imagine how it would feel. They are far less likely to collude with any kind of persecution. Instead, they are far more likely to do something about it.”

This is from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:
“Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head instead of with one’s own.”

Finally, James Baldwin:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”