Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Article submitted to "Spotlight on Stowmarket"

The value of books

With Suffolk’s public libraries under threats of cutbacks or even closure, the public have been forced to consider the value of books in everyday life. Access to the traditional printed word in general is under threat from electronic books and newspapers on such gadgets as iPads and Kindles. These new toys may have their uses, lightening your load as you jet off on holiday or as you squeeze into a crowded commuter train. But, as one author said, during BBC TV’s recent ‘books’ season, you can’t really take them in the bath. And you can’t swat a fly with an electronic newspaper! But that is another argument, really. The important thing is that even techno-books require someone to have written them in the first place.

Haughley Reading Group recently joined World Book Night’s campaign to stimulate a passion for reading by giving away 48 free copies of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas at the King’s Arms in the village on March 5th. You may wonder how giving away books is going to encourage people to read more, or value what they read. Well, the point of World Book Night was not just to hand out free novels, but to ask that, once read, the book be passed on to someone else – it’s called BookCrossing [ ] and basically involves giving a book a ‘tag’ number that can be registered and tracked around the globe.

At the Trafalgar Square launch of World Book Night on March 4th Margaret Attwood declared that a book is inert until someone reads it, and then it begins to speak. So whether you buy your books at a charity shop, a supermarket or a bookshop, whether you borrow from a friend or a library, make the effort to read widely and you’ll find that you are educating yourself. And you will be connecting to the rest of the human race.

Join or start a Reading Group: we did in Haughley. Our books come from Stowmarket Library so reading costs us nothing but our time. Reading and then talking about it with friends is like pollination of the little grey cells. Buzz from book to book and ensure the fertility of human understanding – that’s the real value of books.

---just in case the magazine never publishes this!

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