Book Culture

What was your first reading book at school? I remember learning to read by following the painfully dull “adventures” of Dick and Dora and their pets Nip and Fluff (the reading series was created in the 50’s and bore no resemblance whatsoever to my Scottish working class childhood in the 70’s)

The Happy Venture reading series

Thankfully, books became more exciting as I moved up through primary school. Back in the day, the routine was for the class teacher to read aloud from a book ten minutes before the final bell rang. I loved to listen to the latest instalment from books like Charlotte’s Web and I would board the school bus desperate to know what would happen next to Wilbur the pig.

I’ve been a voracious reader ever since my encounter with Dick and Dora and I was intrigued to see how many novels I’d read of the list of 100 Novels Everyone Should Read  in an article from The Telegraph. I smugly scanned the list and was embarrassed to find that I’d only read 10/100 (what’s your score?) I’ve never claimed to be well read but I wondered if I should feel any pressure to tick off the remaining 90 novels? Nah, I’m all for experiencing new books but every list has an inherent bias depending on the complier’s view of greatness. Life’s too short to read books just because some literary elitist declares a novel to be worthy and deemed a “classic”. I’ll stick by my own choices- intellectual or not!

I prefer contemporary fiction and I also enjoy to see the author up close and personal at book events (most of The Telegraph’s top 100 authors are long gone). I’ve attended most of Scotland’s book festivals over the last few years so I was interested to hear from the speakers at the ‘Book Cultures, Book Events‘ conference hosted by the University of Stirling. The conference explored the pleasures that readers derive from sharing their reading experiences through ‘live’ book events. With the bankruptcy of the Borders book chain and the closure of many independent bookstores, readers are looking for new ways to share their passion for books in a social context. One example of a new outlet for books and authors to reach the public was a Book Market based on the concept of a Farmer’s Market where book lovers can access a wide range of books in an informal setting. In the past, book events have often been held in cultural buildings and some people can be intimidated by a grand location. There’s also been a tradition of ‘ladies who lunch’ making up a large proportion of the audience at book events. Not everyone has the time or money to be part of this type of book culture, so any new idea to reach readers of all ages and backgrounds has got to be a good thing- as long as Dick and Dora are not invited!

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