For some, every day is book day, but officially, 23 April is celebrated as World Book and Copyright Day, or the International Day of the Book, around the globe. In 1995, UNESCO, prompted by Spanish writer Vicente Clavel Andrés, picked 23 April as the auspicious date to acknowledge the magic of books. It’s the date on which Cervantes breathed his last in 1616, as William Shakespeare, albeit on another day according to a different calendar.
In the 21st century, commerce and capitalism have added other layers to the event, but books remain at the heart of it. This year, however, the pandemic has pushed books to the corners of our minds—or perhaps, in some cases, to the forefront. Words are are often the truest friends we have. And yet, simply loving books isn’t enough, especially at a time of grave crisis when the publishing industry is struggling to sustain businesses. Here are five ideas to help you be a more intentional reader, one who is also responsible of their choices.
Support indie book stores
The temptation to buy a book in a few clicks on Amazon is irresistible, but spare a thought for indie bookstores across the country that are trying to pivot to innovative models of selling online. Stores like Champaca and Bookworm in Bengaluru, Bahrisons, Midland Books and The Bookshop in Delhi, Kitab Khana in Mumbai, and many more, have a vibrant presence on social media. Their Instagram feeds are sight for sore eyes and inspire “joy-scrolling”. Most of them receive orders on social media and/or their websites and ship across India. Don’t let an AI recommend your next read. Interact with another person and let them suggest ideas.
Start them early
If you live with, or know, young people, gift them books, no matter what the occasion, or for no reason whatsoever! Early exposure to books is known to sharpen the cognitive faculties of the very young. As for the older ones, Zoom schooling is pushing them over the edge. Apart from physical problems (headaches, postural problems, and eye trouble), their mental health is taking a beating, too. What better than a new book to cheer them up? Or a good old story to spend some down time with?
If you are into books, you probably already have your eyes on the publishing cycle. But look beyond, delve deeper into the musty virtual shelves of the internet, find old classics and other forgotten books to savour. Crucially, be aware of the kind of writers you are reading. Like a balanced diet, your book consumption should have its own equilibrium too: read more Dalit writers, women, LGBTQ+ writers, graphic novelists, first-time authors, poets and, of course, everyone else in between.
Follow indie publishers
It is easy to miss the stellar work done by indies, especially with all the noise on social media about the front list of legacy publishers. But keeping your eyes peeled on the smaller entities can yield unexpected riches, books that take risks and are willing to overlook the demands of the market. In India, independent English publishers like Zubaan, Women Unlimited, Yoda Press, Blaft, Seagull Books and Navayana continue to give us remarkable titles every year—books that deserve a much wider readership.
Join/start a book club
Some of us savour books for their solitary pleasures; others want someone to talk with about the books they are reading. Join a book club and/or subscription service that will allow you to expand your reading horizon and also give you a chance to forge new friendships. Best of all, if you want to start your own bookclub, you can do that in a jiffy on the internet. As seasoned readers are likely to attest, the best bonds are formed over books.