Tag Archives: Reading

Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Books

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 14th Neil Gaiman was the featured speaker at the annual Reading Agency Lecture in London, England.  The forum is

as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries as we explore how to create a reading culture in a radically changed 21st century landscape. [readingagency.org.uk]

As a writer, reader and lover of libraries and all things books (paper, audio, electronic and otherwise) I found myself tearing up and cheering at the screen as I listened to the roughly 26 minute lecture on You Tube. [You can find it on the Reading Agency link, above and in the You Tube link,  below]  And since you read my blog, which is so often about writing and authors (and Gaiman), I thought I’d share some highlights with you for today’s Thought of the Day.

Neil Gaiman (2005)

Neil Gaiman (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaiman admits his bias at the beginning of the talk. He wants libraries to thrive and he wants kids to learn the love of reading. Specifically he’d like to encourage kids to read fiction, because, he says “Its the gateway  drug to reading.”

It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur…So I’m biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen. [Gaiman’s speech as reprinted in The Guardian.com]

But what he says goes for this side of the pond too. (And elsewhere, I dare say.) To have a thriving society one must have a reading society and that starts early, by teaching our children to read and showing “them that reading is a pleasurable activity.” [Ibid] Finding books they’ll want to read and not being judgemental  about their choices.

Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you…Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant. [Ibid]

Fiction is the first rung on the ladder of literacy. It also builds Empathy.

Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed. [Ibid]

It can change how you view the world and show you new worlds whole cloth. And “Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in.” [Ibid] You’ll want to change it for the better. You’ll BELIEVE it can be better.

English: The main reading romm of Graz Univers...

English: The main reading romm of Graz University Library (19th century) on 2 Sep 2003. Picture taken and uploaded by Dr. Marcus Gossler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaiman talks about the need for libraries. Libraries, he says, are about freedom.

  • Freedom to read
  • Freedom of ideas
  • Freedom of communication
  • Education
  • Entertainment

He worries that people “Misunderstand libraries” nowadays. Perhaps they think the institutions are  “antiquated or outdated”

If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. …Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything… Librarians can help these people navigate that world.[Ibid]

A library is a people’s place, a safe haven where anyone can come to find information, gather for a meeting, and, yes, READ — something Gaiman thinks people will continue to do with actual paper books (along with their audio and electronic counterparts).

…as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me…  a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. [Ibid]

He closed his talk by quoting Albert Einstein. When Einstein …

was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. [Ibid]

Here’s the You Tube video so you can hear Gaiman in his own words….


I love finishing a bad book

Yeah, I should have posted yesterday, but I was busy. SORRY.

I mean I WAS busy. I went to the gym, lined up a freelance project, canned tomato sauce, cooked dinner for two of my favorite guys Bill and Mikey, and had music rehearsal. So I really wasn’t slacking off. But, well, maybe I’d have had enough time to do a post if I hadn’t sat down to finish that book I’d been nursing along on my Kindle.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon (Yeah, that’s not my hand. Or my Kindle)

Its not like it was a GOOD book.

It wasn’t.

It was an OK mystery and I don’t even LIKE mysteries.

The writer kept TELLING things that she should have put into dialog and kept putting things in dialog that she should have just TOLD the reader.

There was a big side plot about knitting and fiber and yarn and that kept my interest tied up long after the mystery got stale. (See what I did there? “Tied up”)

… And there were dogs. I’m a sucker for dogs. Shame the chemistry between the protagonist and her boyfriend wasn’t as warm as the connection between her and her dogs.

Third generation Amazon Kindle, showing text f...

Third generation Amazon Kindle, showing text from the novel Moby-Dick. Esperanto: Amazon Kindle de la tria generacio, montranta originan tekston el la romano Moby-Dick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Again, not my Kindle. But you can see the indicator bar at the bottom. This person is about 25% the way through a book about Greenland right-whales.]

There’s an indicator at the bottom of the Kindle page that acts as a book marker of sorts. It tells you how far you’ve gone in a book. I found myself looking down there an awful lot with this book. I kept thinking she’s got a half an inch to go, she can pull this out the tank and make this worth the time I’ve invested. … OK a 1/4 inch to go there could still be something worth while. … 1/8 an inch– I am the master of my own Kindle I WILL finish this book!

And I did, dag-gone-it!

There’s something liberating about finishing a book you don’t really care about.

With out the usual emotional investment I attach to a book at about page 70, I was able to put this book down and just walk away. I just didn’t care.

I don’t find myself thinking what the characters are doing post book or daydreaming about them as I walk the dog.  Nope. Don’t care.

So thank you bad book author. Because the only person who apparently cares less about your characters than you … is me. 🙂

I can’t wait to read the next book on my Kindle, Ending Up by Ellen Dye. Or the one I got out the library. Or the one my friend Joyce sent me as an out-of-the-blue present in the mail (an actual present in the mail!!! for no reason at all!!!) Which ever one I read has already been granted the prize of not having to follow a wonderful book.  So YEAH them! And yeah me!


English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Not my books, but my pile is almost as big.)

Happy World Book Day! (What’s on your Night Stand?)

Super quick post to wish you all a Happy World Book Day!

So here’s my quick reader’s quiz for you…

  • What YOU are reading today (What’s on your night stand)?
  • Who is  your favorite author?
  • What is your favorite book of all time?
  • What’s your favorite series?
  • What was / is your favorite book as a child?
  • What genre of literature do you gravitate you?
  • Bound / paper or e-book? And why?
  • Where is your favorite place to read?
  • What’s the one thing that keeps you from reading?
  • AND… what / who do you wish some one would write a book about?

Here, in no particular order, are some of the books we’ve looked at over the last 9 months on ritaLOVEStoWRITE…

tolkien books

Tolkien’s perfect trilogy.

2006 edition of Brave New World published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics

2006 edition of Brave New World published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fourth edition of The American Language is still available on Amazon.com.

The fourth edition of The American Language is still available on Amazon.com.

The Shel Silverstein collection "borrowed" from the shelves of an obliging independent brick and mortar bookstore, Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

The Shel Silverstein collection “borrowed” from the shelves of an obliging independent brick and mortar bookstore, Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Cover of Wives and Daughters. [ Image courtesy:  Amazon.com]

Cover of Wives and Daughters. [ Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

Anne Tyler 3 books

The Anne Tyler trifecta

Milne House at Pooh Corner1000

Classic Winnie the Pooh

Anansi Boys

I’m reading Gaiman’s Neverwhere now, but I blogged about Anansi Boys a little while ago.


Tweedeedle by Johnny Gruelle (of Raggedy Anne fame)

Dune cover art [Image courtesy: Book Wit]

Dune cover art [Image courtesy: Book Wit]

Complete set of the seven books of the Harry P...

Complete set of the seven books of the Harry Potter series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Image courtesy: Goucher Library. Photo by: ritaLOVEStoWRITE]

[Image courtesy: Goucher Library. Photo by: ritaLOVEStoWRITE]


Clearly I’ve got a thing for the classics and children literature. [Interesting I have no problem airing my eclectic musical taste for all the blogosphere to see, but when it comes to books I hide my paperbacks in the closest… what’s up with that? The fact is I don’t read ENOUGH, or at least — I don’t read as much as I’d like. Maybe I should take a pledge on this World Book Day to READ MORE! But would that mean I’d have to blog less? Hmmmm.]


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