In a blog a week or so ago I wrote about how publishers and literary agents need writers or they would be out of work. If only it felt, as a writer, that we had the upper hand, rather than struggling to keep that pleading tone out of our cover letters!
It can feel like a struggle when looking in the other direction too: writers need readers. But how do we get people to buy our books whilst not sounding too desperate in our ‘buy my book please!’ tweets and Facebook posts? After all, why should someone read our books? Indeed, why does anyone read books at all, when there are so many other interesting things to do? Reading, is such a solitary activity, why would someone want to look like a loner, only one small consonant away from being a loser?
Not so, according to C.S. Lewis, who wrote “We read to know we are not alone.” And, after a moment’s thought, you can see what he was getting at. People read for enjoyment, or to obtain facts. They read to understand how people tick. They read to distract themselves from the stresses of their demanding job, or the give the brain a work out after a day of mind-numbing routine. Some doctors (but not enough) prescribe books to help patients deal with pain, or chronic illness, or depression. William Sieghart’s book, The Poetry Pharmacy, has a poem for every type of illness. A re-reading of Persuasion, or I Capture the Castle, works wonders for me.
The Queen is an avid book worm, a fact Alan Bennett’s book, The Uncommon Reader, makes gentle fun of. By contrast, Donald Trump is rumoured to pride himself on never reading a book. Not sure what that says about our respective nations!
Many quite famous and / or busy people have taken up the 52 book challenge – that is, to read one book a week throughout the year. Some of the big names in social media, like Evan Spiegal, a co-founder of Snapchat, limit their own family’s screen time in favour of reading. Other tech entrepreneurs seem to prefer amassing libraries to art work.
Mark Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, sums it up. “The ability and opportunity to read widely – to stand in the shoes of the different and the dead, to travel to other times and into other cultures – is an important part of being human.
Which leads me to my book links. Please buy, oh go on!