On Reading

On Reading

Normally I tackle a subject that is related to human resources; this month I’m taking a slightly different tack.  I was reflecting on how little people read for pleasure these days.  There is a hard core of literature lovers, but I suspect that most people read only for information: newspapers; magazines; tablets; or just on smartphones.  And, to me, that’s a shame.  I would venture that reading is not only a great way to relax, it’s also an unmatched way of exploring the imagination, letting go of what’s happening around us and immersing ourselves in someone else’s world.

Think of the Harry Potter series, how popular they are.  And what extraordinary stories those books tell.  Or the James Bond books, or any other series – from Enid Blyton to Frederick Forsyth to Jackie Collins (if you like that kind of thing).  My point is that reading is pleasurable as well as educational – if only more people would do it.  I’ve recently read a couple of startling stories, both with – controversial to some – Nazi themes.  The first, Reunion, tells the (short) story of a friendship between two teenage boys in the early part of the twentieth century and what happens to them as a result of the changes in German politics and society in the 1930s.  It also has the most staggering last sentence that I have ever read.  Go get a copy (and don’t sneak a look at the last page).

The second was The Plot against America and imagines a Nazi-sympathising American president at the outset of the Second World War.  He does a deal with Nazi Germany for the USA to stay out of the war: Pearl Harbor doesn’t happen in 1941; and so on.  A gripping tale as casual anti-Semitism takes hold in the USA and of how people’s liberties are gradually, almost imperceptibly, taken away.  It could never happen now, right?  Actually it’s worth reading it just to imagine if it could.  There you are, I’ve come back to that word: imagine.

Imagination can be somewhat lacking in this part of the world (to make a massive generalisation).  So many just drift, living their lives, playing games on phones and tablets, going to work (and perhaps not getting any motivation at all from it), cruising shopping centres at the weekend – substituting one kind of boredom for another – and not living, yes really living, their lives.  Imagination can help us to do that, to kick-start something that is away from the ordinary, the basic.  Try it.  Pick up a book and give it a go.  Anything will do, just make a start somewhere.

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