I would have to admit that reading did not come easily to me in my youth. I struggled to remain focussed throughout Standard Grade and Higher English texts. My thoughts would often drift off to who Aberdeen were playing at Pittodrie that Saturday. However, looking back on my life, I have no idea where I would be without books and my love (yes, really) of reading.
One of my favourite memories of growing up was the time spent at night just before my younger brother went to sleep. My Dad would read us chapters from the Lord of the Rings (long before you could watch it!). Each night I would be transported to this far off world that had been created in my imagination by the text in the book and my Dad’s interpretation of it (complete with voices!). Often we would reach a point of suspense in the story, only to discover that my wee brother had fallen asleep. I suppose this would be the equivalent of the title tune on East Enders and having to wait one more night to find out what would happen. To this day I still cherish this time spent with my Dad and my brother. We could both still tell you the voices that the characters in the story had too!!
At times you can also stumble across new and unknown authors that are your own personal ‘discovery’. Back in 1997, when working in Portugal, an Irish friend of mine suggested I read a book called ‘All the Pretty Horses’ by Cormac McCarthy. I then ploughed through many of his books before he became big news and his stories began to win Oscar’s when they were turned into Hollywood movies. His book ‘The Road’ remains one of my favourite pieces of Fiction writing that I’ve ever read. The real joy though comes when you find a gem like this and you can share it with others. It is a good feeling when someone comes back to you and says “that book you recommended was amazing.” It can spark a long discussion of its merits or otherwise. It’s definitely one of my top 7 favourite books.
It was exactly in this manner that I received a recommendation of my own. “You’re a teacher, a parent and a sportsman. You should read ‘Bounce’. It will change the way you look at everything.” That recommendation came from three separate friends who had all passed it on to each other. They were right! Now I feel I am part of the ‘Bounce’ secret society too. The premise being that there is no such thing as ‘natural talent’, but that everything you can do is the result of practice. It somewhat mirrors my ability to read – the more I did it, the better I got at it. The book was genuinely inspirational. I think about the lessons learned from it most days and try my best to use them. It is amazing to think that the way in which someone puts together their research and arguments inspire you to do better.
Books are amazing. There is definitely a place for digital reading, but there is no substitute for the social interactions and memories that you get from a dog-earred, paperback that has been read many time over.