Summertime...and the living is easy, so go the song lyrics (Dubose Heyward, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin from the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess).
I love reading, and don’t usually associate it with a particular season, but somehow summer has an extra dimension that invites me to find a sunny or shady spot in the garden and lose myself in a good book.
My choice of reading is not confined to print either, and I include audiobooks in my definition of “reading”. I’ve also been doing more driving recently in and around the Mid-Argyll area and now have a playlist of downloaded podcasts on my phone to keep me company on these lovely journeys.
Recent reading has included The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and Official Secrets by Andrew Raymond. On Audible I have just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J K Rowling)...I never saw that coming! The Tattooist of Auschwitz is next on my list.
In the car, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers had me chuckling away as I listened to an episode of Car Talk – an NPR classic which I first heard in the States a few years ago. The Magliozzi brothers Ray and Tom from Boston hosted an hour long phone-in radio show and gave practical mechanical advice to callers. Their thick accents, brilliant rapport between themselves and the callers and infectious peals of laughter brought the show to life and made it a hugely entertaining listen. Tom, the older brother passed away in 2014, and it’s getting harder to find free episodes, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.
So what gives us the capacity to lose ourselves when reading or listening? Is “lose” the right description? If I am reading a novel, then yes, I really do lose myself in the book – I quickly get to know the characters and I am drawn into their world as their story unfolds. My external environment dissipates until I am only vaguely aware of my surroundings.
Audiobooks can have the same effect, although to a lesser extent, and I confess an audiobook can quickly send me to sleep.
When driving, I consciously allow myself to listen to the podcast content, but am very aware that my primary attention is focused on the road. I am also careful to listen only when I am on familiar and quieter roads.
There is plenty of research highlighting the benefits of reading – for reducing stress, exercising the brain, improving vocabulary, firing the imagination – what’s not to like?
My little grandson is now 10 months old, and to my delight he is entranced by books. I marvel at his attention span, but this is outstripped only by his excitement as each page is turned. He vocalises and kicks his legs and seems to be trying to literally get right inside the book! His favourite to date is Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. My worn and slightly tattered 33-year-old copy was a favourite of his mum and auntie, so he is following in the family tradition.
They say there is a book in all of us, but is that really true? I think it is a real gift to be able to craft a story or plot and write in such a compelling way that you transport your reader into another world, and I have the greatest admiration for authors who achieve this.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles W Eliot
Take care, lead well