‘I never need to find time to read. When people say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, I love reading. I would love to read, but I just don’t have time,’ I’m thinking, ‘How can you not have time?’ I read when I’m drying my hair. I read in the bath. I read when I’m sitting in the bathroom. Pretty much anywhere I can do the job one-handed, I read.’
Books, like all printed material, face an unprecedented challenge from electronic/digital platforms, along with an increasing apathy towards reading itself. Many people have got out of the habit of reading, whether through disinterest or through a misguided and mistaken belief that they ‘don’t have the time’.
J.K. Rowling’s quote (above) is encouraging, though her words shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s hard to imagine her having the success she has enjoyed as a writer if she wasn’t also a reader. Sadly, I have to confess that part of me is also delighted to read Ms Rowling’s declaration that she reads in the bathroom … for perfectly innocent reasons, I hasten to add.
I like to read in the bathroom, in much the same way as many people do, although I’ve always believed that it is a predominantly male habit. I have never made any apologies for this, despite the dismay, disgust and disdain which has always greeted my departure for the bathroom with a book or newspaper ensconced under my arm. My own dismay comes from my wife’s refusal to install a bookcase in the bathroom, despite repeated requests. Having accepted that my plea for a bookcase would forever fall on deaf ears, you can imagine my surprise when I recently came home after a couple of days away to discover that one had magically appeared in the small downstairs toilet in our house.
It was as if my prayers, as vague and general as they often are, really had been answered. God had looked into my heart and given me what He knew would make me happiest. The bookcase, in reality, is actually wallpaper that covers one wall in the toilet but its sepia-tone image of books makes me smile. And in this case, it was actually my wife, rather than God, who deserved my gratitude.
Maybe people don’t have enough time to read any more, although I suspect they still find enough time to watch reality TV or immerse themselves in social media for hours on end. Crime write, Ruth Rendell recently said that ‘reading is becoming a kind of specialist activity and that strikes terror into the heart of people who love reading.’
And author Philip Hensher, agreed, saying: ‘Obviously millions of people read books every year but for the first time it is being treated as if it were a minority activity. The BBC devotes hour upon hour to things like Crown Green Bowling but it has no books programme (on television).
‘You can see that people don’t see the necessity to read, they are not ashamed that they don’t read.’
The idea of not reading, particularly through choice, is one that I can’t even begin to comprehend, while I do believe there are enough hours in the day, and enough opportunities to open a book and read a few pages… if you really want to.
COMING SOON: ‘Read All About It: My year of falling in love with literature’ by Paul Cuddihy.