THE ART OF READING
"Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books...Valuable books should, in a civilized country, be within the reach of everyone, printed in excellent form, for a just price..." John Ruskin
Fortunately, we live in a time and place where books are plentiful. If they are not cheap, at least our libraries are well-stocked, and every second-hand bookshop has its store of treasures. Valuable books, as Ruskin desired them to be, are within easy reach of everyone. We are not short of books. What we appear to be short of is time.
But while we continue to make space for activities that are less important in the scheme of things, lack of time to read is an excuse that will not do. Whenever I hear a writer say they haven't the time to read and, unbelievably, I have heard more than a few admit it, my response is that they can't afford not to make time.
Writers grow through reading. Sitting quietly with a good book is a lot like entering one of those narrow pots that they stick over rhubarb and celery, it's a restricted space which forces new growth to pop out of the opening in the top.
Writing is a conversation. Sometimes writers are content to talk to themselves, but most often the conversation begun by the writer is completed by a reader, for reading is writing's close companion; it is the listening part of a two-way conversation.
As writers, we develop a surer touch with our own writing through reading; we complete conversations for others, and in the process initiate better brighter conversations of our own.
Henry Miller said that we should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate, but there are many reasons to read, all of them good.
Here is a list of books currently on my bedside table:
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M Persig.
- Collected Poems, W.B. Yeats
- The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton
- Matilda's England, William Trevor
- The Lamp of Beauty, John Ruskin
- Love of the World: Essays, John McGahern