Thursday, November 14, 2013

Discussing Fiction and Libraries with Neil Gaiman

Awhile back (about a month ago) I saw this article from The Guardian making the rounds, and I loved it so much I myself passed it along everywhere I could. Since then, I've been wanting to share it here and to discuss it a bit, but haven't had time! I still don't have time to do it justice, but it's now or never.

This article is actually taken from a speech that Neil Gaiman gave to an organization in England called The Reading Agency. He made so many awesome points in this speech that I felt like cheering and clapping throughout the whole thing. (I wonder if the people who got to hear it person did that very thing?! I bet so!)

So really, you should go read it for yourself. But if you you don't (and even if you do), here are the things that stood out to me:

First of all, he sort of subtitled the talk as..... what reading does and what it's good for. So think about that for a minute and how you would answer it. Maybe an idea for another post?

Here's what he had to say about it.

First of all, he wanted to be a champion for fiction reading. He says, fiction is a gateway to all other reading. And since our world is all about words and information these days, it's pretty important that kids learn to read, which they never will do if they aren't reading something they like.

Speaking of kids and their reading, he wants to make sure that we understand there's no such thing a a bad kids author. Ideas that are worn out to us old people are new to them. And if we as adults think something is crap, well, it's quite possible we have different reading tastes than the kids reading those books!

Also, fiction makes you feel things. He said, "You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed."

Going along with this, fiction makes people more inventive. If you can't imagine things, you can't create things.

And when you shun the idea of reading for escape, remember this quote by JRR Tolkien, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers. I just love that. I really hope to remember that the next time someone pooh poohs the idea of reading fiction to escape the real world.

Then he went on to talk about libraries:

- They are about freedom.... "Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication"
- They are about education, entertainment and they create a safe place to enjoy all of that
- They are a place to go for information
- There will always be physical books, just like there have always been sharks in the ocean (even before the dinosaurs!) They will survive, which means, there will always be libraries to house them.

We have obligations to the future:

- to read for pleasure
- to support libraries "If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future." Books are the way we communicate with the dead, and learn lessons from them.
- to read aloud to our kids
- to write true things, not necessarily in what happens, but in who we are
- to day dream and to imagine... everything around you, everything you see was at one point just in someone's imagination
- to make things beautiful, to leave things better than we found it

So... what do you think? Do you ever have to defend the reading of fiction and of pleasure to people in your life? Do you find yourself at a loss for words on how to explain how important it is? That using your imagination is just as important as learning something from a non-fiction book? 

Do you find yourself defending libraries and their continued existence very often? Do you think physical books will ever become extinct? Do you think that libraries can grow and change with the changing world?

At any rate, I loved what he had to say and how it was such a nice pep talk for all things bookish and reading. Hip hip hooray!


  1. I have to stop at the comment about having different tastes than the kids reading books we think are crap. I so often nowadays pick up a j fiction or ya book hoping to like it, and just get disappointed. Because I'm not the right audience. The books are written for younger readers and they don't quite enthrall me anymore, except for a very few which I loved from my own childhood or which are just excellent in their own right. I need to stop approaching them, because I think it isn't fair to the books!

  2. I never fail to be amazed when I walk in the library and know that I can read every one of the books there if I want to (and had the time) freedom is a good word for libraries.

  3. Bravo! I love Neil Gaiman. I love fiction. I love books.

  4. This article was amazing and I shared it everywhere I could as well. Gaiman speaks wise words and we all should listen!

  5. What a great speech! I just learned that Neil Gaiman is giving a talk in NY in April and this has made me even more excited to go :)



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