Reflections Of A Humble Bibliophile On World Book Day
Neil Geiman said, “A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” Accustomed now, having been duped by Corona, with the spoilt choice of either sleeplessness, or a surfeit of it; I woke up today from a dream and early before the birds moved in (there are new sightings almost every day these days).
As I somnolently homed-on to my envious partner of an ubiquitous mobile (it is a life-line these days), “As flies to wanton boys…”, in search of some curious solace, I was pleasantly welcomed by a sonorous graphic that read “World Book Day April 23, 2020”.
Shot out of slumber, my joy leaped at that announcement and a plethora of visions took to the skies, rainbowed by the enchanting word ‘book’. A quick get-ready and armed with an exhilarating cup of tea, I leapt into the domain of books: my quaint little library and I am still there unmoved as I write this. “What a day!” It has taken some time to settle in, in this humble bibliophile’s mind, while the dream continues.
As a fortunate mentor to a few dreamy-eyed mentees, with whom I had the privilege to share my little curated library in the past, I immediately shot off a “Happy World Book Day” wish. Sure enough, I received many a wish in return, with some of them in questioned replies; one such being, “What books would you recommend to read today?” Another being, “Are there any books on how to read a book!”
While the former is a personal choice to be tailored to one’s interest, the latter needs elaboration which I will take up after I delve a little on the history, significance and the need for a World Book Day.
First conceived by the Valencian writer, Vicente Clavel Andres, as a means to honour the renowned author, Miguel de Cervantes, best known for his novel Don Quixote, on his death anniversary, April 23; and this date also being the death anniversary of prominent authors such as William Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov, William Wordsworth and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega; UNESCO instituted the World Book Day on April 23, 1995. This is the silver jubilee year and is an occasion to promote the global celebration of the joy of books, it’s authors and the art of reading.
World Book Day is celebrated worldwide to highlight the growing importance and recognition of books serving as the vital link that binds our history, culture, our futures and humanity’s diversities. This day, under the auspices of UNESCO, has become a platform for people across the globe; especially stakeholders of the literary world such as authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and libraries, who come together in a unity of creativity at its best. For this year, UNESCO has officially selected Kuala Lumpur as the World Book Capital.
Need for a World Book Day
With the changing times, and the advent and implicit influence of both an online and a digital world, there is a steep decline in the pleasures of reading, with the weaning away of people, especially the youth from the world of books. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” However, resorting to short cuts in the process of acquisition of knowledge is a leading bottleneck to wisdom today. It is further aggravated by the invasion of online culture. Beyond the prescribed celebrations of the World Book Day, there is a dire need to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. This should form the underlying extension in the definition of the World Book Day.
Are there any books on how to read a book?
I have picked up two such authoritative and evergreen books, based on their own strengths, from my library which I recommend for young bibliophiles to muster strength to read. One ‘How To Read And Why” (Touchstone, 2000) by Harold Bloom, one of the great literary critics of our time, and the other ‘How To Read A Book’ by Mortimer J Adler (Simon & Schuster, reprint 2014). While the former focuses on ‘why read’ with a lexicon of scholastic examples; the latter exemplifies on the nuances of ‘what to read’ with an excellent bibliography of 137 selected must-read books in one’s lifetime. One should be able to source it in the libraries or online platforms. They, to my mind, are invaluable companions to a discerning bibliophile’s repertoire.
On a day such as today, the World Book Day, which invokes the creative mind within us to emerge with a new curiosity, it will only be prudent to share a few quotations that have enlivened my love for books and reading:
“We read to know we’re not alone.” – William Nicholson
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles W. Eliot
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” – William Styron
As I bid adieu with a reverential bow for books and reading, I would like to rest on the belief what Francis Bacon said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” Come, let us walk together the long but assuring path, lined with books to read and savour, towards a destination of wit and wisdom.
(The author is a retired naval aviator)
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