I started out the day reading ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell who owns Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It’s a delightful read and it’s made me think about all the readers and all the books there must be in the world (100,000 in his shop alone). Something must surely have been written about every imaginable topic. According to Bythell, books about railways are his biggest sellers and the railway section in his shop is the one most male customers immediately head for.
I recognise some of the titles he mentions and some of them I’ve read; others caught my attention, especially Any Human Heart which I’ll ask our local second-hand bookseller to track down for me.
When we say “I love to read” it’s somehow taken for granted that we mean novels or non-fiction books that inform us about a person, a place or an historical event among many other subjects. But there are so many other ways we read, without even thinking about it. Although reading appears to be a passive activity, the outcome of losing oneself in a book and scooping up words can be exceptionally productive.
Where would I have been without pattern books when my children were small and I was more involved with crafts – sewing and knitting patterns, crochet, embroidery and sideways slips into macramé and cake decorating, let alone the many I explored without venturing into the activity itself. Whether the project was finished or not, so much learning and hours of enjoyment and productivity resulted from being able to read and comprehend instructions, not only in books but in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, leaflets, mail-outs, advertising blurbs and even packaging materials.
I’ve probably spent weeks, maybe months throughout my adult life poring over recipe books and magazines. Sure, I haven’t cooked every recipe I’ve ever read and some days I’ve spent so long looking at recipes time’s run out to cook dinner and it’s been takeaways for tea; but some recipes have been standouts and remain on the menu thirty years or so after I first prepared and cooked the dish. Reading recipe books has helped me learn about other countries, cultures and traditions, introduced me to new ingredients and allowed me to feed the family on a budget, offer hospitality, be adventurous and experiment without even venturing beyond my front door.
So I began this wintry day reading ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ in bed with rain hammering on the roof and the temperature not expected to rise above 12 degrees. After a while I reluctantly decided I really should get myself out from underneath my cosy bedcovers and do something useful. Looking for something to read while I ate my late breakfast (and not wanting to get butter and jam on Blythe’s book which had been loaned to me) I took one of Jo Seagar’s earlier recipe books from the shelf under the kitchen bench and ended up making beer bread (delicious with butter and honey) and a boysenberry cheesecake. Recipe books are useful if you want to read at mealtimes because it doesn’t matter too much if you smear the pages with food.
So, like many other days, today has once again revolved around reading, writing and ‘doing’. How lucky I am – being able to read has enriched my life in ways that cannot be measured. Have you found the same?