Words: Fiona Christensen
Acclaimed novelist Julian Barnes discusses what books mean to him
“I have lived in books, for books, by and with books; in recent years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from books”Many people have a love-affair with literature and words, none such like Julian Barnes who dedicated his whole life to books.
Barnes writes us a delicate essay about books and their impact upon the acclaimed novelist’s life. His life is centred around books and has been from a young age since he first started reading. His essay encapsulates the feelings all bookworms feel when they walk into a bookstore and connect with the literature on the shelves, the delight at running your hands along the pages of words.
We see how Barnes’s career develops from childhood when he first realised the world he discovered within the books his parents gave him. The connection he felt with the writers remained with him as he grew up and later influenced him into becoming a writer himself.
A Life with Books, also takes a look at the importance of printed works as we move into a digital age where most people have abandoned print for the eBook. Barnes, an avid book collector says that before, when he was a young man, book collecting was like a treasure hunt, a weekend activity where one travelled around to various book stores which were still
privately owned, had low lighting, chintz chairs and a layer of dust on each surface.
Now, it has become as easy as A, B, C to find your desired book, with a quick look on the internet you will know that the book store down the road, part of a franchise, will definitely have a copy, both in hardcover and soft and you will most likely have a shelf number even. Through this he has lost his passion for the hunt, choosing rather to still drive to little villages to peruse the shelves of second-hand bookstores to find what little treasures he can see. And some it, is yes, crap. But many books are hidden gems, bags of money, waiting to be found; and Barnes encourages us to do just that, leave home and actually go find your book instead of ordering over the internet.
The essay is light and easy to read, a joy really and if anyone has a passion for books, it makes for a nostalgic read, almost as if you are walking down your own memory lane.