Books have always been an important part of my life. It is how I made my first friend, how I cope with difficult moments, and the reason I moved halfway round the world. Books can be a source of companionship, comfort, inspiration, even escapism. Regardless of why you read, or what you read, having a day to celebrate them makes me feel special.
I grew up in a time when reading was considered nerdy, and nerdy still wasn’t cool. Harry Potter helped, but it was not until the tv show The Big Bang Theory that being a nerd became trendy. The real turning point was Game of Thrones, when everyone became a nerd, turned it into an aesthetic, and reading and wearing glasses was a mood.
At first, I could not believe these hypocrites. They bully me for ages and then just appropriate what I’ve been doing from the start? I seethed and ranted about the fake nerds, refusing to read the popular things just because they were popular.
Then I realized that I was being stupid. Hating just for the sake of it was continuing that same bullying spiral they had me in at school, so I looked for the benefits. Having everyone reading my favourite books meant movies, and Netflix adaptations, and merch. So much merchandise.
Nowadays I continue reading for fun and celebrate anyone who is reading alongside me, whether it is the latest chart topper or the classics. World Book Day is a chance to celebrate this instance that to many of us brings us peace, allows us to travel from the comfort of our homes, and brings us together with people we may otherwise have never meet.
We celebrate on April 23 because it happens to coincide with the deaths of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, three distinguished figures in the onset of literature. So when UNESCO needed to decide on a date during their Paris conference in 1995 it seemed like a no brainer. It is also a tradition to exchange books on this date, particularly in Hispanic countries, and predates the UK’s recent World Book Day celebrations in schools on 3 March.
UNESCO looks to champion creativity, diversity, and the equal access to knowledge through this celebration involving everyone who is involved in the process of book making, from authors, publishers, sellers, all the way to you, the reader.
So here is my challenge for you today: read something. Anything. Maybe it’s a book that you love so much that your copy looks like it has seen better days. Pick up that book that has been in your TBR list for so long that it is starting to wonder if you are ever going to read them. Read that book that has been recommended to you so many times that you lost count, your guilty pleasure, something out of your comfort zone, something in another language. Just enjoy the experience and read.
Maureen Swain MA student of Creative Writing, Brighton University