The Pure Joy of Books

“To the writing of books there is no end” said a wise man centuries ago.

So true!  Some books have endured throughout centuries, others come and go; their audience is limited and their relevance is fleeting.  But the deep need in human beings to share their thoughts in the written word seems inexhaustible!

In my childhood, books were revered and protected! I remember high shelves in my aunt’s house with wide, leather-bound volumes, in deep reds and blues, with gilt lettering on the spine proclaiming authors like Shakespeare and Dickens.  If I was ever allowed to look at these books, I was to take them to a table and open them properly, being careful of finger marks or spills.  I clearly remember the smell of old vellum paper, slightly musty, but inspiring such a hunger for the history embedded in the pages!

The collections of books I gathered as a child, though not ancient tomes but more suited to my age and reading level, were treated to just as much respect.  I was not to write on the pages (and what trouble I got into when I tore out a flyleaf or two when searching for drawing paper!)  Very quickly I learned what a magical thing a book is.

Once I had learned to read, I found a fascination with how cleverly a combination or pattern of black ink symbols could make sounds, ideas, fantasies, even past lives come to life in my mind.

I was one of those children you would call a bookworm;  you could find me with a book any time of the day, and even when I went to bed, I would read under the covers with a torch till well past midnight!  Sometimes I would read for hours at a time, suddenly becoming aware of my surroundings and surprised that I wasn’t in the garden of a white painted house trying to catch lizards in the sunshine of a Greek island.

These days in the Western world, we are quite likely to come across these once-loved books in charity shops or car boot sales.  I feel sad when I see them, but I walk on by, I admit.

Why? Because times have moved on at an alarming pace and literature is now far more accessible through the technology of the computer. You can read books online, you can Google search for passages or complete copies of a book to read on your screen on your train journey to work. You can download books on a Kindle, a much lighter way to transport your whole book collection if you wish, or if you prefer, you can still buy paper copies online which are sent to your home.

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These days my addiction is audio books, but this is because I find it more relaxing to be transported to another world with my eyes closed, having spent a large part of my day looking at a computer screen of one form or another – oh the joy of books.

But whatever the format, we humans still have this hunger, this compulsion, to read, whether it be fiction or the latest economic world news.  And the compulsion of writers to provide it is equally as strong!  From the battlefield to the news desk to the online app giving us the latest updates, the written word is the one unfailing consistent ingredient – and it has to be RIGHT!

In every environment, at some stage there will be a proofreader or copy editor.  Facts have to be checked for veracity or consistency, spellings have to be correct to prevent ambiguity or libel, and even though we are becoming more and more tolerant of acronyms and text-speak, to be taken seriously perfect spelling and grammar are essential.

To the writing of books / news / history / research / blogs / CVs / online content, there is no end, and that is why people like me will always be in work. The pure joy of books.

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