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What it means to be a reader

Posted on 23rd April 2015 by Jonathan O'Brien
For World Book Night, Sarah Winman on the power of reading.

It's World Book Night! Today, 250,000 books are being given away across the country by a veritable army of volunteers. So if you see somebody outside giving away books today, stop and take one! Why not talk to them? Make friends, maybe go for lunch. Arrange a dinner date for another evening. You go grow closer as the years go by. You meet their parents, you move in together. Maybe children next? It all sounds so idyllic, doesn't it? And it's all because of World Book Night.

There's events happening across the country both in our shops and out. Why not head down to your local Waterstones, or contact them on Twitter, to find out if they're doing anything special?

Below, Sarah Winman, one of the authors whose books are being given away today, has written on her own feelings on what it means to be a reader.


To be a reader, for me, is about entering a world of unimagined possibility; to have the willingness to suspend disbelief and to journey trustingly across the terrain of another’s imagination.

To be a reader is to feel a little less lonely. To be a reader is to be challenged. To feel anger, to feel outrage and injustice. But always to feel, always to think. To be a reader is not a passive state, it is active, always responding.

To be a reader is to have the opportunity to question ourselves at the deepest level of humanity – what would we have done in this situation? What would we have said? To be a reader is to feel empathy and compassion and grief. To be awed and to laugh. To fall in love, with characters, locations, the author. To be a reader is to learn and be informed, and to rouse the dreamy inner life to action.

To be a reader is to take time out from the group. To not fear missing out; to turn off the TV, youtube, the internet. It is to slow down and engage; to be of the present. To be a reader is to find answers. It gives us something to talk about when we’re unsure what to say.

To be a reader is to have the chance to collect stories like friends, and hold them dearly for a lifetime. It is to feel the joy of connection. 

To be a reader is a cool thing to be.

To be a reader is wealth. 


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