The treasure trove under the stairs was our first port of call when we visited our aunt’s house as children. We always found it full of bales of books brought home by our uncle who worked in a paper salvaging plant . Hours were spent in front of the fire reading everything from “Red Star Romance” to serious classics. Books took us away and broadened our horizons. We read “What Katy Did” and “Swallows and Amazons”. We read about girls at boarding schools and people in other countries. We knew that life wasn’t contained in our own streets.
Books connect us with others, past and present. We are given opportunities to consider aspects of lives dramatically different from our own. We can read “The Bookseller of Kabul” and gain greater awareness of a political situation. We can read “All Quiet on the Western Front” and consider our thoughts on war.
Books give us access to a rich variety of language and expression. There is Stan Barstow’s West Yorkshire dialect. There is the Glaswegian voice of “Buddha Da.” There is language that flows like poetry in descriptions offered by Edna O’Brien. In novels and short stories alike there is clever, economic language in which a character is summed up in a few words and rich language which creates vivid pictures. Written language fires the imagination.
Of course, we travel, meet people and learn from many other sources but books take us on further journeys. We can open them in our front room. Which takes me back to the treasure trove and the hours spent.