How does reading connect people?

Story of Ann Morgan, who vowed to read books from 196 independent countries.

How does reading connect people?
- illustration by: BABA SHAKEEL - Copyright ©: Readout
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.
~ James Baldwin

We, at readout, are on an expedition to build a community of readers.

We believe that books connect people irrespective of ideological, cultural, social, geographical, even astronomical and astrological differences. (Yes, you can laugh out at the last ones)

But, how so?!

In the presence of digital gadgets, instant messaging, social media etc., how can reading take leverage by connecting people together?

Ann Morgan, author and book blogger of “A year of Reading the World”; a yearlong project she initiated after she felt the need to explore books published in other parts of the world apart from UK, Europe and North America. She vowed to read books from 196 independent countries. She blogged about her yearlong project which later adapted into a book named, 'Reading the World' or 'The World Between Two Covers’ in the UK and USA respectively

Her project is the perfect example of how reading can dissolve distances by breaking barriers and expanding horizons. In 2012, she started a quest to read 196 books, sampling one from each independent country suggested by blog visitors. Realizing the gigantic task at hand, with complexities of only 4.5 per cent of poetry, fiction and drama works published in the UK every year were translations. Literature from many languages have not been translated into English, with some exception where oral storytelling prevails with not much written at all.

In her ted talk, she acknowledged the enormity of this task and blogged to seek support to expand her knowledge of world’s literature. She asked her visitors to advise what’s trending in their part of the world. She didn’t specify any particular genre, she just insisted on quality read encompassing particular country’s literature heritage.

She was amazed by the kindness and generosity of people responding to her call for help in this project. Within four days, she received messages from strangers offering helping hands. A woman from Malaysia offered to go to a local English bookstore to find a translated copy of a famous Malaysian book. Strangers with no objective, other than the love of reading, connected to Ann’s cause. Ann describes that this awe-inspiring kindness will continue to be a consistent pattern that year. People pitched in and offered to research for the project. Many people took detours to bookstores, libraries, publishers and translators volunteered to help her to read globally. She connected with common people, established writers, leaders in literary business virtually on the cause of reading the world and bonded with people she will never probably meet, but forever cherish to have known.

This project is epitome of how reading connects far off strangers. Books have the tendency to bring the best in people, develop links between individuals who might otherwise have little in common. It’s the story, idea, words, expressions and the experiences of a read that brings strangers together with different lifestyles and culture.

The uncomfortable feeling of reading a foreign culture puts light on the blind spot and narrowness of our mind and reading pallet. It provides an opportunity to widen our perspectives.

Reading also proves to be a sound buffer for arguments and controversial topics. Having a book in hand makes it easier to process difference of opinions, contradicting beliefs, and cross attitudes. A book gives you time to take your sweet time to sink in the foreign idea and then formulate your reaction. It is far different from face to face interaction that often leads to poor thought out reactions.

In order to satisfy a global reading pallet and its increasing demand, publishers across the world will be motivated to publish a wide variety of languages in English to widen the reading base.

As a result; we can learn, unlearn and relearn, together! Because, John Lenon was pretty on point when he said;

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

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