There is a huge amount of intellectual snobbery around books. Only this week in Coronation Street, Ken Barlow the street’s token intellectual, recommended that Audrey Roberts swopped her paperback romance for a copy of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Poor Audrey, she could hardly lift the tome let alone read it. I found myself wondering if, in fact, Ken had actually read it all.
I admit that I have not read it although I feel I should. But there are hundreds of other classics that I have not read and feel they should be ticked off my list. I notice that there are plenty of lists of books that we are told we should read, but this is a bit like being a school and given set texts.
However I am very grateful to my school for having insisted that I read certain books as part of my English literature syllabus. If I was told now that I had to read at least on Shakespeare comedy and tragedy I probably would decline. Thank goodness I stuck with Macbeth with its dark tangled tale of ambition and power. I can still quote some of Lady Macbeth’s speeches now and wish I had the chance to play her in a production – what a woman! In fact, my other set Shakespearean play was Much Ado About Nothing and Beatrice was another feisty woman with an enviable wit.
So many classic books have been made into films and television serials that you may think you do not need to read them. And of course, you don’t: you can enjoy the story get to know the characters and get involved in the history of the time. A lot of us have seen the Harry Potter films and not bothered to read the books.
I love books and read voraciously but I consider it wrong to expect others to have the time to sit and spend time engrossed in such a solitary occupation. Reading is a very selfish pursuit; if we watch a film or read aloud we can share the experience. But there are times when we need to be alone so don’t feel guilty about that either.
If I read a really good book I want to share the pleasure with others and in this respect I have the best job in the world as a book reviewer. A lot of books I don’t enjoy but if I think others may I will read it and write a critique and these are the times when it is not the best job in the world, only the second best.
It is also good when my friends and colleagues share a book with me. Despite having access to thousands of books there is always a gem to be discovered. So if you don’t want to spend time reading a book the media dictates that you must read, be true to yourself and read what you fancy.
Of course you may discover you love Shakespeare and Audrey Roberts may be tempted by further volumes of Tolstoy thanks to Ken and be so immersed in War and Peace that she forgets to take Rita’s curlers out.