Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The need to read more books

I have just returned from a Reading Weekend. That's reading as in books, not Reading as in near Slough.

But a Reading Weekend... Its very existence, the need for such an apparent luxury, is perhaps a sad commentary on our times. That our lives are so busy, so frenetic, that we should consciously need to create space in which to read.

These heavenly weekends http://readingweekend.co.uk/are the brainchild of Damian Barr - Salonista, Wit, super-host and owner of some jazzy striped pyjamas - and are held in the breathtaking Sussex countryside at Tilton House. Tilton is a treat in itself http://tiltonhouse.co.uk/, being a gorgeous Georgian property five minutes walk from the Bloomsbury hangout, Charleston http://www.charleston.org.uk/. I fell totally in love with Tilton, and if I wasn't such a London girl would move in permanently.

The weekend is extremely chillaxed (see ref to Damian's PJs above). Log fires, a funny dog called Barclay, beautifully-maintained gardens, bottles of damson gin and divine food all compete for your attention. But I did managed to read the whole of Edmund de Waal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes, make new friends (including with Laura Lockington, author of the wonderfully funny memoir Cupboard Love) and spent Saturday evening listening to writer Geoff Dyer read his hilarious short-story about the perils of picking up a hitch-hiker.

But seriously, a weekend set aside for reading? I loved every single minute, but on the train back I couldn't help feeling wistful for a time when reading was just something we did, not something we have to diarise. In books we can escape, explore, confirm and play - all vital activities for our ongoing wellbeing. The author Philip Womack has recently conducted a kind of survey http://philipwomack.blogspot.com/ to check that people are still reading books on the underground. They are - phew! - so all is not lost, but perhaps it's not too late to make a new year's resolution to read more from books each week, not just save it up for magical but rare weekends in Sussex.

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