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Arts and Drama
OPEN BOOK
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Here is just a selection of the large number of emails from Open Book listeners admitting to their addiction to books:

"I REFUSED to read. I watched Grange Hill, ate chips and listened to Wham. I DID NOT READ! Reading was for the spotty kid at the front desk with glasses and bad teeth. I on the other hand was cool. Well I thought I was at 14. Then something happened which changed my life. We had to read To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee for our English G.C.S.E.

I grumpily read the first page, then the second, then the third, infact I had read the whole book before anyone else had finished the third chapter. I had never read anything so exciting, moving and inspiring. I realised that books can transport you, inform you and touch you. The book remains my favourite. I gave reading a chance and was rewarded. Now at 30, I am always reading and I will never stop. I have become the nerdy kid but who cares, it beats listening to Wham - just." Pippa

"Reading is so important to me and I just don't feel right without at least one book on the go. I started reading when I was very young and can remember being banned from our local library as a child because I took my quota of books out in one day. I read them all the same day and went back to change them. I think it was on my third trip that they asked me not to come back! I have grown as a reader over the past years. There was a time when I would only buy books by authors I knew. Now, with all the wonderful offers available, I love discovering new authors. Without a book to read, I feel lost." Teresa

"In response to your request for e-mails from 'readaholics', I'm afraid I have been an addict from an early age.

At 14 months old, I was able to recognise individual words in books. At 18 months, I regularly attended storytime at the local library for 3 year olds plus and I am told that I was the one answering all the questions.

A particular inspiration for me was 'Johnny Lion's Book (I Can Read)' by Edith Thacher Hurd and I demanded that my parents teach me how to read.

By the age of six, I had read all of the Famous Five and Secret Seven series and my parents had trouble getting me dressed in the morning due to my being engrossed in whatever book I happened to be reading at the time.

When I passed my driving test I got as far as my front gate before realising that I had no idea of local directions due to always having read whilst in the car.

Unfortunately, the trend continues to this day and no matter how important the task I am supposed to be completing, it takes second place to whatever book I currently have on the go. I recently read the four Harry Potter books released to date in three days whilst I was supposed to be revising for my finals! However, I now try and read as many 'classics' as possible such as Paradise Lost or the Aeneid." Simon

"I've been reading since I was two. Whenever I hit an unpleasant experience in life I deal with it by reading, immersing myself in a story and pretending that the bad part of life isn't happening right now! I even read when I was in labour!!" Sally

"Don't know if you'll consider this "addiction", but when I was about 12-14 years old, I used to read a book a day (or rather, night -- to be completely accurate). I'd borrow a book from the school library and carry it around with me all day; reading during every precious spare minute -- between classes, on my lunch hour, etc. (I will never forget the shock and anguish I experienced on reading of Gandalf's death during lunch break; I had to tear myself away from the book to attend my next class -- hoping it wasn't obvious I'd been crying.) I didn't have much time to read after school, what with after-school activities, dinner and homework, so I kept a torch under my pillow and would read after I'd gone to bed -- for 2-3 hours or until I'd finished the book (whichever came first). My younger sister begged me not to do this because it was sure to ruin my eyes, but I didn't care.

While engrossed in a book, I'd be pretty oblivious to anything else going on. People would have to yell to get my attention. (Actually, what was much more effective was waving a hand between my eyes and the page I was on.) My family used to joke that the house could burn down and I wouldn't notice -- if I was reading at the time. I actually got locked in a library once; I was reading a book I'd found and didn't notice they were closing.

These days I very rarely allow myself to read novels, because I know I don't have the self-discipline to put the book down and go to sleep when I should. Too many times I have stayed up reading until 3, 4 or 5 in the morning when I had to get up for work a scant 2-3 hours later. As it gets later and later, I tell myself -- at the beginning of each new chapter -- "Stop reading and go to sleep... you're going to regret this tomorrow!" but I just can't stand to put the book down without knowing how things turn out.

I still read now... but shorter, "safer" things like newspapers, magazines and short stories. Although even a collection of short stories can lead me astray. They're a bit like crisps: I consume one and think, "Ooh, just one more..." " Vikki

"You ask if we, your listeners are bookoholics, well I have to hold my hand up to that one. I don't even have the redeming feature of reading 'porper literature' - I'll read anything put infront of me - I've read most of my neice and nephews books, my grans mills and boons, my best friends chick lit. and my uncles spy adventures.

All the librarians at my local know me by name and they have my home number on speed dial." Melissa

"I am, and always have been addicted to reading. I suppose I could trace it all back to when, as a seven year old with no patience for lessons, my teacher told my parents to have words with me about the importance of education. My father came home that day instructing me to write a page a day about anything I liked in order for me to improve my reading and writing skills. After sticking to this for all of two weeks, impressing my family with the range and depth of my absurd stories, I began to appreciate the power and effects of the written word. By age 14 I'd read most of Stephen King and James Herbert and was moving on to read anything I could get my hands on. Safe to say that my english grades didn't improve at all - lessons were still too stilted and dictatorial. I now fetishise books in a way that can't be healthy - I always have a pile of at least seven books ready to read after I've finished the current book. I top them up by visiting charity shops and! online bargain retailers in order to keep my stockpile healthy.

Nothing pleases me more than to discover a new author at a tenth of the RRP. I discovered Juian Barnes, Saul Bellow, Stephen Fry, Michel Houellebecq, and Martin Amis in such a way. Good copies at less than a quid make for even more exciting reading. It's not just by books that we can diagnose a text addict; When I wake up, I read the papers much like I used to read the cereal packet as a child; While I eat meals I'm happier to have reading materials of any kind than a fellow diner; on the toilet, in the bath, and before bed, I'm always to be found nosing my way through printed text. Perhaps there's a theorty to be developed here? Do certain people have a quota of words that need to be consumed in order for a day to be passed happily?

Many readers will know the annoyance of this problem: You read, your partner doesn't: You read while they watch TV and are constantly irritated by interruptions; 'Oh, look at that!' 'Did you see that?' 'Look! Look at that!' Do these people not understand? The TV can be many things, but unless it's showing a profile of an author, or a programme related to a current book you're reading, it's often nothing more than an attention seeking show off.

As for the real life vs text life, I'm not sure many people live lives as rich and varied as those offered in novels. Film buffs are in much the same boat as voracious readers - we're addicted to stories and the pleasures of an unfolding narrative, film buffs might have slightly more credability, but they certainly don't have as much material with which to lose themselves in. And who ever said sitting quietly in a dark room watching a film was any more sociable than flicking through a book? As they so often say of adaptations - the book was better." Julian

Read Jenny Colgan's guide to beating fiction addiction.

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Mariella Frostrup with news from the world of books. Listen to the latest edition online or browse the interviews. Sunday and Thursday, 4.00 to 4.30pm, except the first Sunday in the month.
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