I was delighted to be asked by Carcanet Press to write a short piece about Summer Reads. The following appeared first at www.carcanetblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/sam-ruddock-bibliodiversity.html where it is accompanied by the largest picture of me I've ever seen.Apologies for that!
Bibliodiversity. What a mouthful of a word.
‘…a Maroon / of a word and a word so silent / it is the opposite of song.’ So Kei Miller describes another word in ‘Twelve Notes for a Light Song of Light’, the title poem in his third collection A Light Song of Light. If there is a central focus of that book, it is that poetry should communicate with the directness and universality of a song, and carry a similar emotional resonance.
And yet when I first heard this word used last month – unwieldy as it is - it had the feel of poetry. It was one of those moments where all of my beliefs about reading fell into place.
Say it with me: Bibliodiversity.
Reading is more than a hobby; it is active participation in the art of literature and should be supported as such. I believe that reading broadly is more important than the specific books we actually read. That by reading across forms and genres we expand our horizons, break down the barriers that constrain our thinking, and avoid the supermarket ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ sort of bookselling that increasingly determines how readers discover new books. In its own way, I think bibliodiversity is as important to a healthy literature as biodiversity is to a healthy environment. And I’m fascinated by the idea that a reading revolution centred around bibliodiversity could have as much of an impact on the way we write, publish, sell, buy, read, and talk about books, as Fairtrade has on how we shop.
Readers love discovery and readers deserve as much support in developing the craft of reading as writers have to develop their writing. Given a little support readers – me included! – regularly surprise ourselves with the sorts of books we enjoy. Tearing down the barriers that make us uncertain about our capacity to engage with a particular book or genre can be a wonderfully enabling process.
It is these thoughts that led Writers’ Centre Norwich – a literature development organisation interested in both the artistic and social impact of creative reading and writing – to launch Summer Reads. Each year we gather a group of keen readers together to work through a longlist of over 100 titles and select 6 books to feature in a reading campaign throughout the summer. Summer Reads acts as a guide to some of the most exhilarating writing and storytelling from around the world and a focal point around which to create networks of bold, confident, and adventurous readers.
This year the six books we are promoting include A Light Song of Light by Kei Miller as well as works of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novellas, work in translation, and uncategorisable mash-ups of all the above. It is a veritable feast! Whatever your usual fare, why not head over to www.summerreads.org.uk and discover something new.