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a blog by Chris Barrow

A riff on reading

I was (am?) an only child.

In the 1960's my leisure time was largely taken up with reading comics (Marvel/DC), followed by Illustrated Classics (comic-book versions of all the most famous Western literature - does anybody else remember them?) and, eventually "proper" books.

Reading has always been a central priority and pleasure in my life - I target myself to read 30 books a year minimum and frequently exceed that. I've read 22 books so far this year - it's going to be a good one.

Reading is as good for my mind, body and spirit as anything else I do.

The first and last 30 minutes of every day.

I encourage you to link with me on Goodreads

This year I've started using a KIndle - partly to reduce the weight of my travel baggage and also recognising that half of the books I already own are now in a storage unit that will be further utilised when we move house in Q4.

My recent holiday in Greece was a nowadays rare exposure to children of reading age - our fellow holidaymakers on the many flotillas that call in to Vathi, as well as those taking time on the island of Ithaca and flying to and from Kefalonia.

Hardly a book to be seen anywhere.

I appreciate my comments on "devices" but rest assured that any such electronics on show during our flights or in Greece were not about reading good literature - they were 20% gaming and 80% social media.

I'm not going to join those who suggest that social media is the root of all evil.

Used irresponsibly, anything is negative - reading fundamentalist literature is just as bad as doom scrolling.

Used responsibly digital connection is now part of the infrastructure of humanity.

I do, however, worry that gaming and social media replace reading as a primary leisure activity.

You cannot, of course, make people read.

At school, I was press-ganged into reading Thomas Hardy's "Mayor of Casterbridge" and hated it - it scarred me for life and, although I have the complete works of Hardy on my bookshelf (Folio Editions to boot), I haven't yet worked up the courage to make a start.

Perhaps all we can do, like my son Alex and his wife Portia, is become an example by building a home with some beautiful books on display, as well as curling up with a hardback, paperback or read-only device on a regular basis.

In Greece, I realised that there are very few "only children" left in the modern world. Back in the 60's, in the absence of friends, my comics and books were my companions.

Now, every "only child" whose parents can afford a connected device for them, ensures that they have a potential 6 billion friends. Scary if you don't moderate.

Even though I have become a Kindle user, I still wander in to good bookstores at the weekend or if I have spare time in cities, to see what's on display - and I'm encouraged by how busy they are. Given the time, money and space, I'd buy more books that I will ever have time to read.

I hope my grandchildren read as much as I have.

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