Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The Pleasures of Reading

“I find television to be very educational. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book”
– Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
The Corner Book Shop

I remember as a child how one of my favourite treats was being allowed to spend a Saturday morning with my aunt Ranee Krisnaratne

She, dear lady, used to be the manager of a bookshop known as The Corner Book Shop that was situated in a quiet part of Colombo – the corner of Hudson Road and St Michael’s Road, opposite St Michael’s Church Polwatte – that beautiful old church known colloquially as Gal Palliya or the “Grey Stone Church”. It was such a pleasure for me as a small boy just walking into the shop, with its neat glass cupboards containing rows and rows of books and inhaling the smell of new books which gave the whole place such an enticing atmosphere. My greatest pleasure those days was to browse through the shelves after I arrived and select a book with which I could curl up in the room upstairs. I could peacefully read there without anyone disturbing me (except for my aunt bringing me a drink or a snack to eat during the course of the morning) until it was time for me to go home.

I must have carried this pleasure of browsing through bookshops into adult life because whenever I have to catch a flight at an airport, I make it a point to arrive and check in early so I can spend the time until my flight is called browsing through the airport bookshop. In fact the only time I have ever missed a flight was on the occasion that I was so engrossed in a book at the Sydney airport that I failed to hear the announcements over the public address system – and by the time I finished reading and made my way to the gate, my flight to Melbourne had already taken off!

But these days, it seems, bookshops are going the way of the electric typewriter and the telex machine – replaced (with a view to increasing efficiency and sales) by the computer and the internet. Visiting Melbourne recently, I made it a point to visit my favourite bookshop there, Borders in Burke Street – only to find the place had closed down and the building was for sale! More and more people these days are buying things online, with internet purchases providing a greater variety and greater cost savings than any land based bookshop can provide.

If you have a credit card, all you need to do to purchase a book you want is search the internet for one of the many booksellers’ websites, select the book, pay for both book and postage using your credit card – and within a week the book is delivered to your house. No need to walk or take a bus or find a parking place to go there yourself – just a few clicks of your computer mouse and a few days wait, and the book is in your hands!

And it is not just the process of book buying that the computer has revolutionized. Those who prefer to download their books, magazines and newspapers directly on to their computer can get these latest gadgets called e-Book Readers – devices like the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader and the NookColor. These devices are best described for 20th century dinosaurs like myself as hand held computer screens onto which one can, for a fee, download entire books directly from the internet. For the modern generation, perhaps soon the pleasure of holding a book in your lap and turning its pages will be a thing of the past. All they need to do is just scroll through their “book” with a flick of the finger on the screen!

As for me, much as the younger generation may extol the virtues of all these new electronic devices and computers that provide instant access to the great libraries and databases of the world, give me instead a book that smells new, one that I can lovingly hold in my hand and whose pages I can touch.

It will even bring back memories of those Saturday mornings of childhood spent at the Aunt Ranee’s Corner Book Shop.

If you enjoyed this story, you may like to have a look at my book FRIENDS

It is available as a print edition from amazon.com in the US for US$15.00 with free postage within the USA, as a print edition for £10.00 in the UK and for CDN 15.00 in Canada – and as an ebook for A$3.99 from amazon.com.au in Australia.

One comment on “The Pleasures of Reading

  1. Sinnathamby Devendra
    October 30, 2020

    I agree with you entirely , Sanjiva. I have yet to read a book on Kindle. Any day, I prefer to hold a book in my hands and turn the pages rather than scrolling down on one
    of the modern machines.

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2020 by in Opinion, schooldays.
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