Posted by: Corri van de Stege | March 4, 2010

What would I do without a book?

The Guardian today runs with a couple of stories about books and writers, one is in by Deborah Orr about Hilary Mantel and her observation in a previous article that teen mothers force us to rethink feminism, one about publishing and that ‘a reading boom is sweeping India’s growing middle class’ and one that I found interesting / amusing, by Bibi van der Zee who writes about how she stopped reading for a week.

Why on earth would you do that?  Well, she was curious whether reading held her back from doing other things that perhaps she should be doing.  Such as hanging up pictures, dusting the floor, or even talking to husband, family and friends.  Who decides though? 

When picking up granddaughter and her parents from the airport for a holiday in England, I always bring some goodies for her, and that includes a book (or two).  She now knows there is a bag and pulls out the books and sits down in the middle of the arrival hall to inspect them, leafing through them at high speed, admiring the pictures and looking ever so satisfied and pleased, every single time.  You could not tell her to stop ‘reading’ for a week, or to ban story reading time.

Unsurprisingly Bibi also came to the conclusion that life without books was not worth living.  It is strange to think though that ‘in terms of evolution, reading in an escapist way is a very recent human activity’.  Nevertheless, I cannot imagine either what life without books would be like, in whatever format (paper or digital). 

Yesterday, on the train back from somewhere in the south of the country I happily finished Cutting for Stone – I was so glad I had another world to drown my self in, one that was quite different from the crowded train, the claustrophobia of the underground and then another train, some five hours altogether.  What would I do in a hotelroom when I want to switch off from the world of work if I did not have a book?



  1. I can’t imagine what I would do without a book. My boss told me a story today about getting on her flight from Washington D.C to San Francisco and discovering that she had left her book in the coffee shop at the airport. I was so horrified to think that I would be stuck on a 5 hour flight without a book!

  2. Kathleen – Five hours on a flight without a book sounds like a nightmare to me. That’s why I cannot understand why anyone would give up books for a week, just to try and find out what it would be like…

  3. Stop reading? Um, there’s not enough chocolate or art exhibits or engaging conversation in the world that could make up for not reading. Oh, my. However, I do view that “week away from reading” as a valid experiement – maybe a good idea – surely it would jumpstart a great essay or even a blog entry.
    Do I dare try it? Um, well, not right now. Husband says I have been a voracious reader of late. (Perhaps because I am not particularly intrigued by the telly and also, it’s still winter!)
    And how I loved your picture of part of your bookshelf and browsing through the titles! (are we bookaholics, or what?)

  4. Oh – yes this winter does not want to leave us. I’m just as happy, if not happier, sitting outside in the garden and reading a book 🙂 There’s a thought though: give up reading for a while and do some more writing. Mmmmm.

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