“I don’t have time to read”.
I have lost count of the numbers of times I have heard
this phrase: from friends, from family, from boys, even occasionally from teachers. The thing is, I do not believe them. In fact, I rarely believe anyone who says “I
do not have time to do something” – what they really mean is that “I am
choosing not to give priority to it”. I
am a great believer that you can have time for almost anything: you just need
to make it a priority.
I have quite a busy job these days and one which requires
prioritisation. I do not always get it
right. But curiously, I have found myself reading rather a lot recently. The reason I do so is because reading has the
ability to transport you. It transports
you in different ways: in time, perhaps, in location, outside one’s own
experiences, in emotional response, both to the beauty of good writing and to
the plight of the people you are reading about.
It provides not only escape and respite, in the same way that sport or
music, for instance, might give you a break from your academic work, but it
also enables you to understand the experiences of others in worlds which you
can never hope to enter yourself in the relatively short time span we have on
What I do not have time for these days is a bad book. One never wants to prioritise a bad
book. Nowadays, therefore, I live on
recommendations that I trust. It works
both ways: there is something hugely pleasurable in recommending books which
others then read and enjoy; it is also obviously equally pleasurable the other
way round. And in a curious way, people
who recommend books to each other become closer friends, too.
Books which I have read in the last few months are very
varied: they have included Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music”, a beautifully
written and intriguing story about the close web of relationships formed
between members of a string quartet; Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning”
written in 1946 from a psychotherapist’s point of view about his own experiences
in Auschwitz, a book which had sold over 10 million copies by the time he died
in 1997; David Belton’s book cataloguing his extraordinary first hand
experiences in the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s; Harry Eyres’ “Life lessons
from an Ancient poet”, a wonderfully irreverent review of Horace’s work; and I
have just finished a book called “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Vergese, which
chronicles the life of a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and follows the
life of its foremost surgeon. It is the
sort of book which you never want to finish, not wishing to say goodbye to the
family you have come to know so well.
All of these books were recommended to me by friends and all were
excellent in their different ways.
If you need a book recommendation, there is an excellent
shelf in the library, to the left as you go in, which contains recommendations
from both staff members and from your peers.
Better still, recommend books to each other and then follow up on them. Amazon makes life so easy now – if you get a
recommendation, persuade your parents to order it right away. Make it a priority. For now, I will simply recommend two or
three authors to you. They are probably
for older boys. If you are interested in
learning about India, which I find a truly fascinating place, I recommend
Rohinton Mistry for the most amazing novels (one of which is my own
recommendation in the library), or for something more factual, try William
Dalrymple, a writer/journalist whose collection of short articles in “Age of
Kali” provides an eye opening introduction to India. And if you are interested in Africa, go no
further than Ryszard Kapuscinski, who tells eye witness stories from the
continent in the second half of the 20th century, both from the
point of view of the leaders he met and also the man in the street. I will tell you more about him another day.
This afternoon, recommend a book to a friend. Do it straight after assembly. Do it tomorrow, too. And if you have a moment, I do not have a
book currently either. Do please come by
on one of my open door mornings, 8.15am every day except Tues/Thurs, and
recommend a book to me.