If there’s one silver lining of remote school, this year there will be no night-before announcements that tomorrow is World Book Day and your darling child needs to be dressed as a woodland creature or some minor character from Nicholas Nickleby. (Though my son occasionally wears the top hat to this day.)
Yet I still find that World Book Day eve is filling me with dread. You see, I haven’t been reading much this year. Sometimes it’s been difficult to focus. When I hear of friends and colleagues and randos on Twitter who have been reading all these books during lockdown, I feel a pang of guilt. I have been listening to lots of audio books, but why haven’t I been reading?
Reading and books used to be such a joy to me and a way to escape. I often escaped to someone else’s time and perspective of the very place I was in – I loved short stories about the South, and devoured the often grim short stories of Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and Ellen Gilchrist. These days, though, I get a paragraph in and my eyes seem to dance around the page.
Despite that, it’s been quite a booky week for me. I interviewed author Karen Campbell about her work as a writer in residence at Dumfries and Galloway Council for the LGIU podcast. She speaks in metaphor and it was wonderful listening to her talk – you can hear her in the week commencing 15 March. (Subscribe to LGIU Fortnightly in your favourite podcast app to make sure you don’t miss it.) We’re also publishing one of the short stories from that year on our website – as part of our week of reflection of a year of local government life in the pandemic. Drop me a line if you have a story to tell about what it’s been like from either a personal or professional perspective, we’re still looking for blog posts, creative writing, video or audio contributions.
I’ve also been arranging an interview with Matthew Potter, whose book on The Story of Clare and its People has been hanging around my house like the mariner’s albatross – though it’s a beautiful book with images of a beautiful place and dipping in to the stories of the development of local government there and its sometimes colourful characters has been great fun (though after a paragraph, I admit I start to struggle – through no fault of the author’s).
To be perfectly honest, the only books I have read this year have been for LGIU’s local government book club and the pressure of hosting or participating has forced me to read the book. Pressure I’ve been glad of. We have another one coming up on 16 March and I have to admit I’m thankful that the book we’re reading is short: Elif Shafak’s How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division (which also means you still have time to get the book and join us at this Member-only chill and chatty event).
I am looking forward to seeing the wonderful work that public libraries do to promote the joy of reading and the discovery of books. I know World Book Day is really about the kids. But even there I feel guilt. My 13 year old son is not, and has never been, a reader. Though just this week he asked me to buy him a book and I was thrilled. He wanted dystopian novels. I bought him Brave New World (as requested) and threw in some Cormac McCarthy to boot.
I think I’ll steer clear of the dystopia though, I’m not sure I want to escape to where I already am right now. I’m looking forward to reading How to Stay Sane in Age of Division this weekend, I could really use some of that.