Reading is the ultimate luxury. It's an outward indication to the world, and an inward reassurance to yourself, that you're a worldly scholar with a voracious appetite for knowledge.

It's a promise to yourself that you have nothing else more pressing to do or take care of at this moment, and can instead self-indulge with an activity worthy of more respect than thumbing through Facebook. It is just the right amount of learning, relaxation, and pomp - a lifesaving doctor adored by all, driving a flash car, while on a holiday in Malibu.

My Nana was always an avid reader. She was in it for the knowledge and the time passing, rather than the ego. I've never met someone more capable of dazzling you with knowledge and information and stories in conversation, but also able to do it so gently without making you feel inferior in any way.


It wasn't that she was trying to not make you feel silly for shrivelling up before the endless bank of knowledge she had plucked from the pages of books; but rather the thought of you being silly had never even crossed her mind, and nor had the thought of her being wiser.

My earliest memories are of sitting in her lap in her "reading chair", where she would always be found surrounded by piles of books in various stages of completion, the stacks of them towering precariously far above my head as I toddled around.

I spent much of my childhood nose down and thumbing through pages. This was in no doubt aided by my being of the last generation raised in an age without an abundance of devices.

I say this not cynically, but with a genuine understanding of what 7-year-old me would have picked, had the other option been assembled by my peers over in China at the time.

Reading was a pleasure. The library was an endless source of pleasure. I still remember the feeling of fossicking through the shelves, panning for gold to sustain me another week. The vastness of the shelves was incomprehensible to my small head.

And then, aged 14, my passion for reading was beaten to death by none other than the alleged father of literature himself, Shakespeare.

He dragged me into an English class by the scruff of my neck, propped my limp body up against my desk, and forced outdated language down my slack-jawed face with his foot, until I escaped by the lunch bell and asked the canteen lady "Doth thou hath sausage rolls?".

Or maybe I got my first device around this time, I can't recall for sure.

Either way, it pains me to admit having committed the cardinal sin of someone who spends their life working with words- I can't remember the last time I read a book without being obliged to.

Even then, the last time I was obliged to was when it was my own book, which I had to read six times in proofreading alone, and which now reads to me like a jumble of sounds and noises, similar to when you repeat the same word aloud many times.

In hospital people would bring me books. They gathered on my window-sill like birds perching on a fence. As the collection multiplied and expanded uncontrollably, in sync with my tumours, the staff began to make the same library related jokes independently of each other (which received the same polite chuckles).

That's not to say I wasn't immensely grateful for the thought that people had put into bringing them to me - I was.

I had not the heart nor the self-assuredness to tell them that I hadn't read their gift, so instead I stuck to the story that it's difficult to read while on chemo. I believe it to actually be true, some wise sources have told me so. But I couldn't say for sure myself, because I didn't try.

So upon my discharge, the flock of bird on the fence migrated with me, and made nests in my lounge. Two tall piles of books, to serve the sole purpose of decoration, maybe even a makeshift shrine to my Nana. They make me look a little intellectual in theory, but I didn't dare hold that bluff if anyone asked which ones I had read lately.

That was where I was stuck, in a stalemate with the squatters in my lounge. Until last week, when I picked one up again and blitzed all 450 pages of it in mere days.

This wasn't a relaxing activity at all, this was a fiend chasing a high and neglecting all responsibilities and obligations in the pursuit of it. After that hit of the first chapter I was hooked.

Likewise, I've had to pry myself away from my current reading endeavour to write this just now. The book is calling me again. Long may the thrill of the chase last.