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Booked for the season

Journeying afar

September is here and in breezes stacks of books. The working public set a couple of hours aside in their hectic lifestyle to spend a few moments to explore through rows and rows of volumes, schools organize a day out to the Colombo International Book Fair and parents go hand in hand with their children to select the latest and best books on the shelves to improve their child's reading habit. Yes, with these sights around the corner, we can once and for all truly say, the literary month is here again.

Our heritage shifted to reading from hearing. The temple based society witnessed monks recite and our ancestors listen attentively. Reading comes to the scene, a little later - it took time to get instilled in the civilization.

The origins of reading rest in rock inscriptions. Just like the age-old scrolls discovered along the Jordan River valley, we can trail back to the likes of King Nissankamalla.

Oral history is much older, yet reading is older too than the times we can just imagine.

Reading has reached many boundaries in today's context: the Internet, computer, sub-titled films and documentaries, newspapers, and behind all, books. Observing advanced reading cultures in many developed countries, it makes us wonder why Sri Lanka is still lagging behind in reading.

The positive picture of book exhibition sales do not, in fact, indicate a developed reading culture. One would argue people would not buy books for the sake of fashion, but the local customer behaviour gives the lie to this very same theory.

Many buyers, especially the collectors, at the exhibition agree they would not actually read what they buy.

Reading a book is a discipline that should be cultivated, unless you are born with that. Some people wouldn't flip the pages even they come across a book. Many would prefer newspapers over books. A newspaper and a book have their own differences; newspapers are timely, whereas books are universal.

Keep reading books, but remember that a book’s only a book, and you should learn to think for yourself.
- Maxim Gorky, Russian author
The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.
- Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.
- Andre Gide, French writer who won Nobel Prize for literature in 1947
Wear the old coat and buy the new book.
- Austin Phelps, American educationist
No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.
- Confucius, Chinese thinker
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.
- Francis Bacon, English philosopher
Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.
- Marcel Proust, French critic
A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read
- Mark Twain, American humourist

Reading a book, on the other hand, is not enough. One mother went on to complain about her daughter's reading habits. She is so fond of only Mills and Boons type novels, which provide more sensation than intellectual backup.

Ever since our childhood, adults have been forcing us to read good and proper. But why do some people stay away from reading, still and all? Perhaps our adults do not know the ways and means to motivate the book reading. Perhaps they do not know how to choose a suitable book for their kids.

This signals one thing. The advent of a book exhibition does not solve our reading issues. Many books both appropriate and otherwise keep on invading the market, and sadly the customer does not have the insights to spot the differences.

Publishers try their best to sell their stocks, be it good or bad. Of all goods and service, books have earned a good name, and it gives a good shield to the publishers.

It has been a problem, ever since the humans got to know letters, about choosing what to read. Adults should learn themselves on how to choose the best book to their kids. For that they should be familiar with language as well as ethics of a society. If anyone fails to meet this conditions, they should better stay away from the book exhibition. No-knowledge is better than dangerous knowledge.

All these factors influence us to comment on a part of Sir Francis Bacon's famous saying: reading maketh a full man. With much respect to the English philosopher, we have doubts if reading alone makes a full man.


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