Sometimes you have been out of the rhythm of reading and the task of going to a bookshop or looking on Amazon for a new book to read can seem daunting . So you watch TV , trawl the internet or tidy your cupboards and your life becomes smaller and poorer for the lack of a book.
I had reason to find some books on my bookshelf for my beauty therapist who , since her marriage a year ago , says she has stopped reading. As this was our major source of conversation in those testing times when she was threading my eyebrows ( a painful process which needs to be talked through to avoid leaping off the bed and running away), I was perturbed and went home to find her the right books to get her going again.
I took her 3 . I instructed her in the right reading order. First , she had to read Alan Bennett’s An Uncommon Reader which is a slim , gentle and funny book about the Queen of England (the one who has just turned 90 ) who discovers reading and the pleasures thereof when her corgis rush into the Buckingham Palace Mobile Library and bark rudely at the librarian. The Queen goes in to apologise and feels obliged (obligation is her second name ) to take a book , (which she does) , to read it (which she does ) and upon returning it to take another… so begins a most wonderful journey in which she discovers herself and her voice . It has turned me into the most ardent monarchist and I feel a bond between me and this Queen who now exists in my head . I wonder if she has a book underneath the blanket as she sits in the golden carriage and waves at the people?
Once her reading phobia was broken and she had found the comfortable chair and the right time to read i took it up a notch to Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance . A story to break your heart and stop you going to bed at a sensible time – one that reminds you that you don’t have to be Indian /Swedish/ 18th century English , a man or a transgender to be transported into that world and to feel the pain , harshness and suffering of life or the joys and colours of a different world.
Then the third was Jonny Steinberg’s book A Man of Good Hope. I don’t think there is a book that captures the hard journey of a refugee and the tenuous grip one has wherever one settles. It should be a setbook for our kids and in fact for the whole world .Steinberg overcomes the barrier between author and subject as he sits in Asad’s car outside his spaza shop in Blikkiesdorp interviewing him.