If I could pinpoint one particular thing that has got me through life in general, was my love for reading. Knowing that whatever happened during the most gruelling day, no matter the mishaps when I was a kid at school, or the mountain of problems I faced at work, doing some underpaid job for an over demanding boss, irrespective if the traffic was heavy or if wall street crashed, once home, I would always find comfort in putting my legs up in some corner of the house, away from the clatter and the noise, and the blabber and pains of the rest of the world and immerse myself in the story that the particular book I was reading at the time offered me. It was like entering a bubble, a whole different world, where the characters came to life in my mind, where I was not just reading a book but was essentially part of the adventure, part of the story as if like the author had me in mind when he was penning his work.
The love for books goes back as far as I can remember. Saturday mornings were always special, because apart of the hand downs I read during the week, I would buy a new book, guaranteeing a different adventure, one that would turn my weekend into one of fantasy, and transport me into a different realm. Like all young boys growing up in the eighties, I was fascinated by the escapades and adventures of the famous five and the secret seven, whose stories I would discuss in detail with my school mates during the week.
Being a book lover is not just about the read, it is much more than that. Unfortunately quaint bookshops are disappearing at a fast rate, being replaced by the trendier but impersonal modern bookstores. I remember some in Valletta, and the first thing that used to strike me was the particular smell. I have never managed to fathom what it really was but it definitely had to do with paper, glue and ink, combined with dust and who knows what more. Alleys upon alleys of lined literature, literally spoiling you for choice, offering you a challenge and daring you to touch, even open volumes that challenged the beliefs we grew up with. Books that helped open the minds of many, offering a different perspective to what we always believed was right or was wrong.
Then there were libraries, I remember the one we had at school, lined with reference books, but also full of dark corners where the assistant librarian used to stack away volumes that were deemed uninteresting for some but quite a find for others. One could easily lose track of time, in such wonderful places libraries are. I recall the satisfaction of finding out that a particular book I had been waiting for for ages had just been returned and therefore it would be mine to devour from cover to cover.
This was the time before kindle, before Google and before twenty four hour news on television and your Smartphone, but even so I don’t think these technological superpowers can ever surpass the magic of holding a volume and exploring it.
Books give us much more that reading material. A book, a newspaper or a magazine can give you peace of mind. Reading for an hour will calm down your entire system, help you relax, and unburden your mind.
It is only right to urge our Smartphone kids to read more, sadly you rarely see someone reading a book or a newspaper on the bus anymore for example, and whilst they might be reading something online, it is not the same. If only the upcoming generation could learn to appreciate this immense tool so readily available in schools, local libraries and almost everyone, we would ensure that they will be not so one track minded, they may even stumble into reading something that will astound them. We are living in a time where children find themselves needing to learn how to run before learning how to walk, and I am sorry to say, this cannot end well because in a few years time people will merely exist not live.
Ask yourself a simple question; “how long has it been since I actually read a book?” then decide for yourself, either continue playing with your mobile phone or else grab a book, find yourself a comfortable armchair and spend some quality time with a friend that you don’t need to charge but will instead charge you.