There is something both wonderful and exhilarating about leafing through the pages of a well writ novel, or go in between the lines of a seminal work of poetry, losing oneself into the world of ink, far away from reality as imagination takes over and the world as we know it -- subsides.
World Book Day is being organised by the UNESCO since 1995. Also known as World Book And Copyright Day, the significance of the day also lies in the fact that this is also the death and possibly birth day of the English Bard, William Shakespeare.
Taking to twitter on this, UNESCO posted, "We must redouble efforts to promote the book in order to fight illiteracy & poverty and to strengthen peace."
They further tweeted, "Let's highlight today the power of books to promote open & inclusive knowledge societies."
So what is the importance of reading?
UK author of the book Melissa, Jonathan Taylor compares reading to ‘a matter of life and death.’ He says, “As many people have said, in some circumstances it is literally life and death: to read a sign wrongly in the antebellum American South, or WW2 Europe might literally result in violence or death. But it's also life and death in more profound ways: reading structures our very consciousness - it's the way we understand the world.”
Taylor further opines, “The texts we read and absorb are how we understand the world outside ourselves - and they also form our internal worlds as well.”
Canada based Indian author Gaurav Sharma, whose debut novel Gone are the Days was well received across all sections furthers the point saying that whoever said, he/she is a proud non-reader of books' is living in oblivion.
Speaking about the importance of writing, he says, “I think reading is an effective way of introspecting how you percieve reality and imagination. As an author, you get to know what other authors have done better and it helps hone skills.”
As a reader, he opines, it not only opens up one’s mind to a wider array of things as well, but is also a welcome relief from the monotony of the mundane world.
Author of Pretty Vile Girl, Rickie Khosla says that just like the body needs food to sustain, the mind needs nutrition too.
“I think of books as the carbs and proteins and fats for your mind,” he says, adding, “That’s why reading is important - you don’t want your brain to starve, do you?”
As for what kind of books, Khosla wickedly adds, “All kinds are good! The classics by Charles Dickens and George Orwell can be nutritious soups, the pop thrillers by Sidney Sheldon and Gillian Flynn the spicy entrees, the modern favourites by Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie can be the rich main courses and the romance of Jane Austen and EL James the yummy desserts!”
Speaking about reading and books, Laaleen Sukhera, the editor of Austenistan, a popular fiction anthology inspired by Jane Austen and published by Bloomsbury says that there is little that can replace the languid luxury of reading a favourite novel.
She adds, “Some titles become dear old friends; reliable, charming, and beloved for a lifetime. I enjoy my fiction with a heavy dose of wit in romantic settings.”
The author from Pakistan says that her favourites include EM Forster’s A Room With A View, Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April and Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. Each book, she believes brings in something new and different to readers. And the best part, she says is that all three also have superb film adaptations.
Above all, Jonathan Taylor says, that reading, at its most powerful, help us to understand the other and take us beyond ourselves to understand people who, in tabloid journalism and politics, might be demonised. He concludes, "It is not to say that we become complacent, but that the only way we can possibly help people, and help society is by understanding people other than ourselves and our immediate cliques."