A few years ago, I took a writing course on Coursera and wrote an essay titled “I WAS BORN TO WRITE, I THINK”. That serves as the frame for this article. I was also born to read.
I grew up in a strict home in the 1980s. My father believed children in our neighbourhood could be bad influence on me. That meant I could not mingle unsupervised. While I had older siblings, the wide age gap meant it was difficult for us to have common friends or interests. Well, so I thought.
My siblings regularly brought all sorts of novels home including the Mills and Boon series. I had little interest in the small paperbacks however. There were loads of bestsellers in the house; Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer were regular visitors in my house. As an eight year old child I made these authors my best friends. They became the common friends I had with my siblings.
My first bestseller was ‘Kane and Abel’. My young mind grappled with totally strange concepts. Regular references were made to dictionaries for me to get a grasp of the plot. With each fresh page, the grip of the story on my young mind became stronger and stronger. From that point on I read book after book. It often meant hiding in the kitchen at night with the lights on so no one would know where I was. Until I finished a book, I would not be at peace with myself.
From my house in Lagos, I swam in the Danube, took walks on the streets of St. Petersburg and I prowled the streets of London. I stood in there in 1941 as the Germans raced towards Moscow. And in the first week of December, it snowed. The Germans not dressed for the Russian winter froze, as did their equipment. Winter did what the Russian Army failed to do, decimate the German Army.
I could be who I wanted to be every time. In my head, I saw no limits but possibilities. I realized I had a fertile mind. The seed of imagination had been planted. Books!
I went to Russia in 2008. The Volga and Neva River came to life. It was as if I had been there all my life. I was home. Not a stranger. The beauty of books.
Fast forward to 2018, I am involved in reading and reviewing books in and with a group. I have got to appreciate diverse backgrounds and its effects on the reading culture in our environment and we have had to find how to encourage those who were not introduced to reading early to get to read. The best way to inculcate the art of reading is to read. Trudge through the pages daily till your mind is forced to submission. The neophyte should start with short articles, journals and newspapers. This would be a foundation of being adventurous and reading across genres.
It helps to have monthly and annual target of books to read. My friend and I had a target of 100 books in 2017, minimum of 8 books a month. Difficult but possible, this would require stripping our lives of several activities including television and phone time. Every spare period would be spent reading. For November 2018, I have 3 great books already: Fela: This Bitch of a Life; The House of Rothschild: the World’s banker 1849 – 1999 and Shoe Dog. I await delivery of Oriri’s Plight.
Join a book club or have a reading accountability partner. Many of us tend to do more in communities, than alone. Having people to share experiences garnered from the pages might be motivation to read more and wide. With the advent of social media and electronic messaging, distance or geography do not have to be barriers.
Buy books and keep them around you. Buy and buy again. Make sure your excuse for not reading is lack of a book. My friend loves food, a lot. But he buys books before he food and it is no surprise that his collection of books is now an enviable treasure. Paying for books can be a motivation to read.
Finally, reading as a way of life is always an advantage. Always.
Mash is a reader, writer, adventurer, traveller, cyclist and lover. He is also an information security consultant and a director at Netplus Limited and TP Plebus Limited.
He is a member of The Book Club, Lagos.