As a child, I loved my regular trips to the library. The excitement lay partly in the preparation. I’d gather all the books that were due to be returned and place them in my special library bag the day before. Only allowed to borrow three books at a time, I’d spend the night making a list of possible books I could bring home the next day.
The musty smell of books upon entering the library never fails to transport me into another world. Shelves and shelves of books teasing me with the promise of undiscovered adventures I had yet to go on. I’d wander through the aisles with a sense of purpose, determined to find THE most exciting adventure to embark on. I’d then sit down with the carefully selected books and slowly narrow down my choices to the golden three.
I have often wondered what my childhood would have been like had I not discovered reading. A pretty boring and tedious one I’d imagine. Long hours at school punctuated by a sizeable amount of homework at the end of each day. (I studied at a convent school in Singapore and it was very focused on producing high-achieving girls) Reading was my little private escape from reality. And the habit stuck.
Then when I had my son eight years ago, I suddenly stopped reading. Miriam Stoppard and Gina Ford don’t count. The first year was a blur of rushing to and from work, nappy changing and broken sleep. The only things I seemed to read were picture books and cooking instructions on the back of food packets. The few times I did pick up a book, it took me so long to finish that I’d lose track of what the story was about and who the characters were.
Reading takes extended concentration and focus. Like a muscle that needs working out, I discovered, once out of the habit it was difficult to sit still for periods long enough to lose yourself in a story. Between children, home and work, working mothers don’t have the luxury of time. There’s no such thing as a lazy Sunday afternoon. So I’ve resorted to snatching 15 to 30 minutes here and there to read. It takes a different kind of concentration, demanding that I dive straight into a zone rather than a slow unfolding. Power reading I call it.
I’d just finished a big book and was somewhat relieved when Richmond Mummy introduced me to Galaxy Quick Reads, a campaign she’s running to encourage the nation to fall in love with reading. The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith took me all of ONE evening to finish. I’ve never read any of McCall Smith’s books. Even when his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency was adapted into a BBC series, I wasn’t tempted to pick up his books. But after his Cleverness of Ladies, I can add him to my list of authors to read. He is a wonderful storyteller and I will be heading to the library for more of his stuff.