On December's bookshelf

Education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 3 Dec 2019

In times of stress and uncertainty, sometimes we need to read something warm, joyous and comforting to balance the fractious world.

Anne Bogel's 2018 collection of essaysI'd Rather Be Reading is a charming way of fulfilling that need.

Based on her popular blog (Modern Mrs Darcy) and podcast (What Should I Read Next?), Bogel grounds her work in personal experience, exploring the highly individual nature of reading, and how it shapes the reader.

She reflects on books as living objects rather than commodities, with the power to transform futures and conjure whole worlds.

She's ready to hear your literary confessions: you're an English professor obsessed with theTwilight series; you once ate cereal for dinner so you could finish your book; you're afraid to go back to the local library because you once forgot to return a book and now your fines equal the cost of a nice dinner out.

The essays also touch on the different readers she has been throughout her life - from the young girl discovering books and the earnest college student writing papers for the first time to the new wife and mother besotted with her local library and searching for literary guidance on how to cope with daily challenges.

This, she says, is why it's perfectly acceptable to reread favored books over and over. It is not the same book because you are not the same person.

Bogel argues for the importance of a deadline when deciding what you should read next (sometimes library due dates can apply useful pressure), and in trusting that the right books will come into your life at the right time if you pay attention to the signs.

She fearlessly addresses the dangers of a reading life, including committing yourself to a run of mediocre titles and winding up in a slump, finding the right book but at the wrong time or wondering what to read after years of avoiding the written word.

A question she ponders is whether poignant moments in life are cheapened by having read about them first, causing unexpected recognition in the reader (eventually she decides in the negative).

She offers guidance on how to arrange your bookshelves (perceive "decorating" as building enough bookshelves), avoiding being "book bossy" (rather than offering a kind recommendation what you're actually doing is indicating what a fellow reader "should" do or be) and why you should never disregard a writer's acknowledgments (therein lie treasure that further illuminate the work).

Lastly, she reflects broadly on the benefits of reading.

Beyond being a boon to health and an absorbing pastime, reading offers a frame of reference when dealing with challenging new experiences, a way of living a thousand lives rather than the single existence most of us have been allocated and the reassurance that you are not, and have never been, alone.

If you have any questions about our column, or the issues raised within it, please e-mail them to us: enquiry@brightentestprep.edu.hk

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