How time flies, it seems like just yesterday that I was writing about 2021’s National Literacy Day in my article Knowledge is Power. Now that week has rolled around again. National Read a Book Day takes place on September 6th, and National Literacy Day on September 8th.
As documented in that article, I’ve read all my life, devouring as much literature as possible. Adulthood and work have somewhat gotten in the way of my speed (I no longer read a book every day, and I now have significant lulls in between reading bouts). But the love for reading is still there. I have a long-standing goal of reading 52 or more books in a year – at least one book a week.
Reading opens doors.
In the logical sense, you can pick a book on any topic and learn new knowledge and skills, enhancing your life. National Literacy Day emphasises the need to be able to read and how we can help the third world with this much-needed skill. Since it began in 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) has taken place annually to remind the public of how literacy is a matter of dignity and of human rights. Believe it or not, 771 million people, most of whom are women, still lack reading and writing skills. (Facts and Figures taken from UNESCO’s website about this year’s events.) This year’s theme for the International Day is ‘Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces’. It is an opportunity to emphasise the importance of these spaces whilst ensuring their quality and increasing equitable and inclusive education for all. It involves spaces such as libraries and classrooms, which play a vital role in people’s lives, especially those in poverty. Classrooms for teaching everyone about much needed knowledge, and libraries for being safe spaces which offer computer services and books for free – or at a discounted rate. These spaces need to be protected, in terms of funding and in terms of support. The pandemic, especially, has highlighted how much pressure teachers are under.
Reading fiction opens doors to every kind of world imaginable; every possibility can become a reality.
Other reasons to pick a book include; the fact that today’s world is so loud, hyper-connected and busy. Sometimes, peace and quiet are necessary, and the world inside your head is yours and yours alone. Sometimes, you need to get lost in a beautiful, entirely made-up world. Writing can grab us and shake us out of personal struggles—by presenting a breakneck adventure we feel compelled to see through; by gently opening us back up to the thrill of a good story; by allowing us to spend time in the mind of a fictional character. When they appear to us at the right moment and in the right way, these books can act as a bridge that leads us back to the rewards of literature. With the seasons changing too, there is nothing better than escaping the cold to get underneath a blanket and read a book.
With 47 books read so far this year – I’m well on my way to hitting my 52 and above goal – I’ve chosen five titles that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the hopes that at least one of them will interest someone else.
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. This was my last audiobook listen and has been on my list for a while. There is also a TV adaptation, done by the BBC, which graced our screens back in February. Adam Kay narrates it as he reads through his past diary entries on what it was like to be a doctor now that he’s left the profession. It documents the highs and lows of being a doctor and the stresses of trying to maintain a personal life whilst juggling a very demanding career. I found it hilarious and heart breaking at the same time.
Educated by Tara Westover. In another biography, Westover writes about her childhood in a radical Mormonist family. Born in rural Idaho, in a family who believes the end of days is coming, she fights for her chance to have an education. I found the perspective on religion and gender roles fascinating, reading how she breaks through generational trauma to find her own place in the world.
Piransi by Susanna Clark. This book floored me with its imaginative heft. A man called Piranesi lives in a house with many rooms that are sometimes flooded by the sea. He can’t remember how he got there, but he occupies his time by mapping its cavernous, statuary-filled halls. Themes of memory, consciousness and hubris are explored here as you gently try to work out the world alongside Piransi.
Under the whispering door by T.J Klune. Klune has been one of my favourite LGBT+ writers as of late, and this novel brings the wholesome found-family tropes that he’s becoming known for. The book tells the tale of Wallace, who dies and is taken by a reaper to a space between life and death. Even in death, he refuses to abandon his life and when he’s given an ultimatum, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
Time is a mother by Ocean Vuong. As a poetry book, I found this a short book which absolutely knocked the breath from my lungs. Vuong documents his thoughts on his mother’s death in the most lyrical way, narrating the paradox of sitting in the loneliness of grief and surviving beyond it.
In addition, in this season of reading, don’t forget to give your local bookshops and libraries some love. There’s plenty to choose from; Cogito books in Corbridge, as well as Forum books (which have sister shops in Alnwick and Tynemouth), Northumberland Libraries and services such as The Book Detectives, who do book bundles for children. Find your next favourite read in there or nip in for a friendly chat with people who also love books. There are infinite worlds out there waiting for you; you just need to pick up a book to begin exploring.