Recent news that Amanda Ross is to launch a new Channel 4 book club fills me with sheer unadulterated pleasure. Is this because they are headlining with one of my titles? Sadly no. But because books on television give the act of ‘reading fiction’ a kind of mainstream appeal.
I read because I enjoy it. I think many more people would enjoy reading if they could find the right book. But for many people ‘reading fiction’ is linked in their minds to school, learning and essay questions like ‘Examine the themes of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird’. Books are for studying and book shops are places for the learned few.
Many people read and enjoy what they read; the much criticised celeb autobiographies or the much sneered at Dan Brown or the blood suckers of the Twilight worlds. I have no problem with these. I think you should find your own route to becoming a ‘reader’. I read Ian Fleming and Denis Wheatley, Harold Robbins and Jean Plaidy when I was a young adult. Eventually I looked for other things.
For many people television is a huge part of their lives. I am one of those people. I was brought up in the TV boom of the 1950s and television is in my blood. For a lot of people seeing books talked about on television (on the sadly missed Richard and Judy book club) will be the first time they have ever watched people enthusing about the content of a book without having to write about it or be tested on it. It will also be the first time they have listened to people talking about books which are outside their comfort zone. Complex and literary; genre and unique. Celebrities they admire will sit on a sofa and show interest and enthusiasm for things they would never have considered reading. And you know what? They might be filled with enough confidence to give it a go themselves.
Would I like a celeb to sit on a sofa and talk about one of my books, THE DEAD HOUSE? Or LOOKING FOR JJ? Maybe Martine McCutcheon? Someone from Hollyoaks? Alan Titchmarsh? A weather girl (or boy)? Yes I would. Because then people on their sofas might be emboldened to think that they could enjoy this book. They might begin to see that book shops and the world of books are not just about reading to learn.
They are also about learning to enjoy reading.