I was absolutely delighted to be asked to guest blog for Ireland’s longest running literary magazine about why I love reading, and why I blog about books. Text below originally published by Books Ireland.
One of my earliest memories is my eldest sister, passionate about education to this day, teaching me to read the word ‘wheelbarrow’. There must have been simpler words before that of course, but I remember ‘wheelbarrow’ because once that jumbled mess that started with ‘w’ became a word, every word made sense. I could read on my own and it meant that I could go anywhere. I might have grown up on an isolated farm, but I found a kindred spirit in Anne Shirley; triumphed over bullies with Matilda; solved riddles in the dark with Gollum and became a vegetarian before I knew the word as I cried with Wilbur over Charlotte. Before my teens I had realised that books are not only a portal to knowledge, but a chance to go places in your head – anywhere you want to be, a good book can take you there. Books are not about escaping reality, they are a way to improve upon lived reality. George RR Martin said it best “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Studies of embodied simulation have begun to prove what every keen reader knows – reading books alters our perception, makes us more empathic, improves our memory and the flexibility of our thinking. If we are totally immersed in fiction, we become part of that world in ways that are not entirely metaphorical. For example, if you hold a warm drink while reading you are more likely to think warmly about the character in the passage. If you hold an iced drink you are more likely to feel coldly towards them. If you sit on a hard seat rather than a cushion, you are more likely to come to harsh judgements (and juries on hard benches find the accused guilty more often). If you read a book while travelling on a bus or train, you’re more likely to have a sense of racing through a story. This blurring of reality and immersive fiction is why I love reading – but it’s also an intimidating reminder of the subjectivity of book reviews.
Undeterred, I started Eats Plants, Reads Books while nursing a hangover from academia – I missed taking time to stop and think about what I had read. One of my favourite things has always been getting someone to read a book I know they will love, and book blogging allows me to press books into virtual hands and say “This. Read This”. I try to keep my reviews spoiler free, and prefer analysis to synopsis. I am a passionate advocate for books that I enjoyed, and I get particular satisfaction from writing reviews of books without a big marketing push for that reason. It makes my day to hear that someone has picked up a particular book because of the blog, or to have an author thank me for a review. I have always been grateful for the worlds, lives and experiences I have accessed through books, and am newly thankful for the wonderful community of readers and writers I have become part of through blogging.
Books Ireland is the only publication of its kind, specifically focusing on books published in Ireland and books of Irish interest. Follow them on twitter @. Print and digital subscriptions are available via their website.