Every since I met #Babybernie I have been thinking what is the best gift I could give him, what is the one thing that would connect to everything else?
The one thing I come up with is reading, being able to read a book a week – so in 10 years he would have read 3,650 books – even if half of them are shit he is still doing well, I think you learn from shit books too.
When I was little I could not stop reading, when I was 10 I read nearly every Enid Blyton book in two years, Magic Far Away Tree, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Boy Next Door and heaven knows what else. Then one day I stopped reading, it must have been when we had to read for school, as I am thinking about this I can’t remember what happened or why it became hard.
I remember around the age of 13 reading all the Hitch Hiker Guide to the Galaxy books, Brave New World, 1984 and a David Bowie biography (which I still have) and then it’s blank.
When I went to university a English Literature required A LOT of reading and I struggled, I could not sit still for more than 10 seconds and lived on Brick Lane in London which was WAY more exciting than the library. I persevered.
These days I know to put what I need to do right in front of me first thing in the morning. Eat That Frog by Brain Tracy made TOTAL sense when I read it ten years ago and now I have finally made the connection. Somewhere along the line there will be blood, sweat tears and pain – the sooner you do something the less the pain and agony and the more you will be able to genuinely relax.
Back then I would walk around the world to put of doing something, not even something I did not want to to do, worse it was something I was not sure of doing – so I’d find something else to do instead of doing that thing. I got a bit of a wake up call at University when I read four Harry Potter books in a week and then wondered why it was so hard to read the texts we had been given on our course, I LIKED the books but Moby Dick actually looked bigger than a great white whale when I got it out to read. I still have to finish it and one day I will, but I LOVE it, I learnt some great words from it and it seems that every ten books I read make a reference to it.
Reading more than anything else has allowed me to think, mould and shape my ideas, then I find confirmation of what think, this Alan Bennett quote is exactly what I mean:
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
[From the History Boys] Alan Bennett
I have been on lots of self development courses and some parts of those courses have stayed with me, over time they have changed my life and some of the ‘distinctions’ or ‘techniques’ have certainly shaped the way I act and think. However, it is constant reading that has really helped me grow and learn more than any course, even at University I would be staring out the window and thinking why the fuck are we reading this and then years later made the connection.
The best example of this is Wordsworth “All shod with steel, We hissed along the polished ice in games Confederate, imitative of the chase” from the The Prelude. Which is THE longest poem in the world (maybe) or at least it seemed like it at the time when we were studying it. Even a week after the lesson I was looking at flowers and trees in a different way, these days I am unable to look at a landscape or park without taking a deep breath, savouring the moment and thinking about nature.
I’d love you to think I am really smart, but many of the books I love I’d never have been able to read if I had not sat around in a class every week talking about them.
Dickens is a great example, I ended up madly in love with David Copperfield, Mystery of Edwin Drud and Our Mutual Friend – even if I pick them up now I have to work really hard to wade through them – but they are epic, enchanting and, well fucking amazing.
The greatest reading break-though for me came when I was drowning in books I have to read and had just met “Super Cool Wife” – she found this new website called Audible.co.uk signed me up and downloaded “A Sentimental Journey Through France And Italy” by Laurence Sterne which I was doing very badly at reading – it changed everything. This HUGE book was actually only a 4 hour and 17 minute read and the ‘Olde English’ really did not sound that old when read by Walter Covell, it really came alive best of this book has one of my favourite lines ever:
“I went to right to bed, for the last thing an Englishman wants to meet while travelling is another English Man” .
Thanks for reading! 😉