I read an interesting article recently by Neil Gaiman. His name might sound familiar to you — he is an English author of novels and short fiction. His most recent novel, released in 2013, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” was critically acclaimed and had a large waiting list of library patrons wanting to read it.
Gaiman recently participated in an annual lecture series for The Reading Agency, a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. The purpose of its lecture series is to serve as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries. His remarks were edited for an article for The Guardian, which is where I came across them.
His talk was titled “Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming,” and had many wonderful points about the value of reading. Perhaps I will discuss more of them in a future column. For today, however, I wanted to share an anecdote from Gaiman that I found very interesting. He was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. He took a top official aside and asked him why China was now interested in the genre of science fiction, after so many years of disapproving of it. He was curious what had changed their viewpoint.
This top official explained that the answer was simple: The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the U.S. that went to the corporate headquarters for Apple, Microsoft and Google. They asked the people at those companies who were involved in inventing the future to talk about themselves and their backgrounds. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
I found this anecdote very interesting! Fiction, particularly science fiction in this case, is not just an escape or a guilty pleasure. It can actually help people learn how to think creatively and come up with new and innovative ideas that can bring about significant change. So this is one reason, among many, why reading is so important.
And I know you can get books at the bookstore or online these days. But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, and freedom of communication. They are about education, about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information. And even in today’s connected world, they are still vitally important!
1. “Never Go Back” by Lee Child
2. “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith
3. “W is for Wasted” by Sue Grafton
4. “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty
5. “Gone” by James Patterson
6. “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham
7. “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. “Mistress” by James Patterson
9. “The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks
10. “Takedown Twenty” by Janet Evanovich
1. “Homeland, Season 2”
2. “Now You See Me”
3. “The Heat”
4. “The Great Gatsby”
5. “Game of Thrones, Season 3”
6. “Iron Man 3”
7. “Monsters University”
8. “This is the End”
9. “Man of Steel”
10. “Dexter, Season 7”
MONDAY — 6:30 p.m., Cinema Italiana! In honor of Italian Heritage Month, the Dante Society of Westerly will be showing “Bellissima.”Anna Magnani stars as a screen-struck mother, convinced that her daughter’s star potential is her ticket to a better life. Risking everything in pursuit of her dream, Maddalena (Magnani) finally arranges a screen test for her child, only to realize the cruel reality beneath the shimmering veneer of the filmmaking.
TUESDAY — 1 p.m., the weekly Tuesday film will be shown in the auditorium. This week’s choice is “The Skeleton Key” (rated PG-13, 104 minutes, 2005). When Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) takes a job in Louisiana’s bayous, she unlocks a deadly secret involving magic, conjure and sacrifice that pulls her into a terrifying world of strange, frightening and unexplained incidents.
TUESDAY EVENING — 6 p.m., the weekly Chess Club meets. All ages and experience levels are welcome!
Nina Wright is the reference librarian at the Westerly Public Library.