Lucy Mangan (2023) Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading.

Reading is what I do. That’s the explanation I often give for my views. I sometimes add, I also write. But most readers aren’t interested in that. Lucy Mangan does both. She shares her home with her Bookworm husband and child and around 10 000 books. I love books too, but I’m not allowed to love them that much.

‘Books have not isolated me, they have connected me,’ Mangan tells us.

Reading is an unnatural act. Think of it in analogous terms of computer coding. We learn as children and it becomes so natural to us we forget how unnatural it is. Some of us, although it is often said, not enough of us, learn to love reading. In delving into her past reads, Mangan hopes to entice her son to share her love, to share her life and passions.

Introduction: ‘People say that life is the thing but I prefer reading.’ Logan Pearsall Smith.

Reading promotes empathy. You don’t need to follow C.S. Lewis into a different world to find courage, loyalty, generosity and sacrifice as staples of humanity. Even Enid Blyton, who averaged 10 000 words a day—anyone that marvelled at knocking out 2000 words a day, can rightly, gasp in astonishment—promoted the same Christian values.

Blyton’s villains were inevitably, ‘swarthy’. In an English world between the world wars, Rishi Sunak could not exist between the pages without being villainous. Kemi Badenoch, Priti Patel, Suella Braverman promising to send them back would be an oxymoron for morons.

Trumpian villains like the Ice Queen, sought not to Make America Great Again, but to keep the world in a post-nuclear winter in which greed, conceit, arrogance and betrayal were universal staples to be rewarded by more of the same.

E.B.White, Charlotte’s Web isn’t one I’ve read. (‘Where’s papa going with the axe?’) But I did read the primer, Skunk and White on how to write. Obviously, it didn’t take.

‘Obviously, it’s impossible to say exactly when childhood reading stops and adult reading begins.’

I began with the functional, read, repeat and learn with Janet and John and went on a long journey with Grimms’ Fairy tales. To love reading, you need to forget you are reading and something in you shifts. With so many distractions, it’s a journey fewer and fewer make. Most readers are female and increasingly elderly. I only qualify on one of those scales. Which reading group do you belong to? Read on.