One amazing thing about lockdown is the increase in book sales. I love books. This is mainly because I am a serial fantasist with an overactive imagination who probably needs help. There is nothing better than delving into a story. I saw Stephen Fry on telly the other night saying that, as humans, we have always told stories. Back in the day it would be round the campfire, or painted onto a cave wall. Today we have the luxury of print, and eBook screens.
Finally there are programmes on again talking about books. People reading and reviewing new books out, and talking about their favourites of all time. We no longer have to go in search of groups and newsletters to give us inspiration. There was even a programme this year again covering the shortlisted books for the Booker Prize. But one thing I have noticed about coverage on books is that it always seems to happen on “proper adult” channels, talking about “proper” books. There’s nothing prime time on channels aimed at the “youth” audience, as if books are something only for those of a certain age.
And that is because in the world of books there is still a real snobbery about reading. It’s like you’re either a reader or you’re not. And you’re only counted as a proper reader if you read non-fiction as well as fiction. Plus you have to had read the classics. People were appalled when Fifty Shades of Grey was selling out everywhere as they saw it as trash.
I think this is all wrong. If someone is reading then to be honest that can be nothing but a good thing. I don’t care what it is that they’re reading. If someone likes nothing but erotic fiction, fine. They’re making the same contributions to publishing houses and bookshops as those buying books about the depiction of women through historical writing or whatever. And I’d rather people read things they enjoyed than put themselves through hell for the sake of being able to say they’d read something.
All of this snobbery actually puts people off reading. If someone doesn’t count themselves as a reader it’s probably because they think of 800-page tomes about 15th century Russia, or sagas about poor women trying to find husbands in the 18th century English countryside. But reading is so much more than that- it’s exactly as varied as cinema.
So I urge anyone who isn’t a reader to go and find a book of the same genre of film you like. If you haven’t read anything but what you were made to at school you’ll probably be surprised. It doesn’t even cost anything, just join the library. And if you are a reader, buy a book for someone this Christmas- spread the love of stories. And enjoy what you read, whatever that is. Books are like meditation, they’re there to take you away from the everyday crap we have to deal with, and transport us to the world of someone else. Do not apologise for what you like to read.
I love to read anything and everything, but at this time of year I turn to cheesy Christmas books. I’ve started this years Christmas book pile already. They may not be high brow, but surely- now more than ever- we all need something reassuring where we know everything will turn out OK in the end.