Why do I like books?

Now there’s a question!  I had to think about this so hard it’s taken me three days to get around to writing about it.  And yet I was always known as the family bookworm, so there must be a reason behind it.

It’s occurred to me that I have actually been thinking in terms of  “Why I like reading,” so I have to start by saying that it is mainly the reading that counts for me.  I do like books; I love the feel of them, the look of them, I adore beautiful illustrations and I’m a sucker for children’s picture books.  But I can’t imagine treating them as mere objects or even collecting first editions so precious that they can’t be opened.  If you can’t read it (which includes looking at the pictures) then for me it is pointless.

I think I get a pleasure from the act of reading that is almost physical, like the pleasure of singing.  Why else did I insist on reading the cereal packet as a child when I wasn’t allowed to have a book at the breakfast table? I would also say that I get a lot of pleasure from the way language is used, whether it is beautiful, clever or unexpected.  But I could experience that through my Dad’s made-up-on-the-spot bed-time stories as well as songs and nursery rhymes, so that can’t be the reason I was so desperate to read that I kind of picked it up from following stories in my big brother’s comic books.

So I’ve decided the biggest single cause for my love of reading is the need for stories.  These days we have stories of all kinds thrown at us by tv, film and the press – fiction, news or “reality,” it all depends on stories.  But when you curl up with a book,  half of the imagination that creates the world is your own; this is your own private version of the writer’s world and no other reader will experience it in quite the same way.  Every book carries the promise of a new alternative world and a new story which just might be all right in the end.

Norma Palmer


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