What do books mean to us?

The group met to discuss how books and reading have been a useful resource for recreation and learning throughout our lives. Aspects of this broadly broke down upon experiences of reading and being read to as children, books that have inspired or moved us, and any fiction character or real life person that we could relate to.

A common theme around reading as children was of escape. Partly to get respite from challenging home environment issues, but equally just to be explore other identities and be transported to new worlds and let our imaginations soar. Texts such as the Hobbit, the Famous Five, Black Beauty and works by Roald Dahl were amongst those early reading adventures enjoyed.

Reading can be a gender related issue, as whilst boys and girls equally enjoy and progress at reading, by adolescence it can be seen as a feminine pastime and this puts off some boys continuing to read as adults.

There were fond memories in childhood of libraries and read along storytelling cassettes.

As adults affected by Mental illness, it is important to read other lives that validate our shared experiences, even if this is dark and challenging. At other times we just want to spend time away from our own troubles and get lost in Agatha Christie or enriching literature, poetry and plays.

There can be barriers to reading throughout our lives. People with dyslexia were until fairly recently poorly as stupid or lazy. Fortunately this is not the case and appropriate help and use of alternative reading formats offered to people with dyslexia or other sight conditions.  The ability to continue to enjoy reading when suffering depression can be restricted due to diminished concentration levels. This can be frustrating, although sometimes switching to either short stories or audiobooks can help.

One group member accounted how they had not been encouraged to read as a child and only by having a period in hospital discovered that they could enjoy it and pass the time.

In terms of biographical works, many in the group appreciated reading of extraordinary lives also affected by mental illness, substance abuse and recovery; eg Patrick Swayze , Elton John, Liam Gallagher.

Finally it was noted of the death of Clive James yesterday, a multi talented biographer, poet, TV presenter and journalist.  He wrote Japanese Maple tree poem when diagnosed with a terminal illness. It beautifully accounts his increased appreciation of life and nature, and fortunately he enjoyed almost 10 years of life, albeit affected by physical health restrictions.

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