This is a story about how I stopped watching TV and began reading again for pleasure, after ten years in which I hardly turned a page. Now, I just like books. I'm reading about six simultaneously.

Magazine - Ten years without books


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Ten years without books

by John Kuti

As I write this, I have half an eye on an old James Bond film that is showing on my computer. But this is a story about how I stopped watching TV and began reading again for pleasure, after ten years in which I hardly turned a page.

I suppose I was an avid reader of "literature" between the ages of nine and fourteen. I had enough time to be White Fang, Robinson Crusoe, and Bilbo Baggins and Jeeves. Of course there was room in the schoolboy's imagination for some real historical figures: Scott of the Antarctic, all of the Vikings, and Benjamin Franklin were good friends of mine.

Then, in adolescence, I began a long search for strange and radical ideas. I wanted to challenge my elders and betters, and stir up my peers with amazing points of view. Of course, the only place to look was in books. I hunted out the longest titles and the authors with the funniest names, I scoured the library for completely unread books. Then I found one which became my bible for the whole of 1982, it had a title composed of eleven long words and an author whose name I didn't know how to pronounce. It was really thick and looked dead serious. Even better, it put forward a whole world-view that would take days to explain. Perfect. I took it out of the library three times, proud to see the date-stamps lined up on the empty library insert.

Later, I went to university. Expecting to spend long evenings in learned discussion with clever people, I started reading philosophy. For some reason I never found the deep-thinking intellectuals I hoped to meet. Anyway, I was ready to impress with my profound knowledge of post-structuralism, existentialism and situationism. These things are usually explained in rather short books, but they take a long time to get through. They were the end of my youthful reading.

Working life was hard to get used to after so much theory. It was the end of books for me. There didn't seem to be much in books that would actually get things done. To do things you had to answer the telephone and work a computer. You had to travel about and speak to people who weren't at all interested in philosophy. I didn't stop reading, you can't avoid that. I read all day. But no books came my way, only manuals and pamphlets and contracts and documents. Maybe most people satisfy their need for stories and ideas with TV and, to tell the truth, it was all I needed for ten years. In those days I only had a book "on the go" for the duration of aeroplane flights. At first I would come home and watch TV over dinner. Then, I moved the TV so I could watch it from bed. I even rigged up a switch so I could turn it off without getting out of bed. Then, one fateful day, my TV broke and my landlady took it away.

My new TV is an extra circuit board inside my computer. It's on a desk in front of a working chair and I can't see it from the bed. I still use it for the weather forecasts and it's nice to have it on while I'm typing this… but what to do last thing at night? Well, have another go with books.

Now, I just like books. I have a pile of nice ones by my bed and I'm reading about six simultaneously. I don't want to BE any of the characters. I don't care if a thousand people have already read them. I don't have to search through libraries. There are books everywhere and all of them have something to read in them. I have the strange feeling that they've been there all along, waiting for me to pick them up.


adolescence (n.):  period of a person's life between childhood and adulthood

avid (adj.):  extremely eager or interested

challenge (v.):  to invite someone to compete or take part, esp. in a game or argument

circuit board (n.):  a small electronic circuit which consists of a lot of small parts made on a piece of semiconducting material

fateful (adj.):  very important because of its, often negative, effect on the future

historical figure (n.): a person famous in history

intellectual (n.): a highly educated person whose interests are studying and other activities that involve careful thinking and mental effort

learned (adj.): acquired by learning or experience

pamphlet (n.): a thin book with only a few pages which gives information or an opinion about something

peer (n.): a person who is the same age or has the same social position or the same abilities as other people in a group

pleasure (n.): (something that gives) enjoyment, happiness or satisfaction

profound (adj.): showing a clear and deep understanding of serious matters

radical (adj.): believing or expressing the belief that there should be great or extreme social or political change

rig up (v.): to fix (a piece of equipment) in place

scour (v.): to search (a place or thing) very carefully in order to try to find something

simultaneously (adv.): in a way that happens or is done at exactly the same time

world-view (n.): a way of looking at or considering the world

Task 1

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Reading and writing is a way of saving information to the upcoming generations. Humanity developed rapidly when humans started writing. Nowadays people start to underestimate the power of books and the overestimate the power of internet. Many science articles and math theories cannot be found on the internet. The way forward is to register the books online maybe as e-books for money or free. What I found most interesting is the power of small books. Some small books tend to have as much information as a big heavy book.

Currently, social network is popular to most of people. People prefer waving in the Internet and chatting with someone who they have never seen instead of reading books. I think we should break off this useless habit because it is really time-consuming.
Reading books has many advantages. It helps us to get out of a mediocre person to become an intellectual, so we could solve some matters and explain something we havent ever understood. Besides, a book- lovers always have good behaviors, they are hardly angry and rude.
I know that but I rarely read books :D because I'm pretty lazy. And now I'm trying to make this habit.

Hello what is meant by the expressions "I only had a book "on the go" for the duration of aeroplane flights.". What is the "on the go meaning"?? Thanks

Hello aysenurr,

When the writer says 'on the go' here, he just means for when he was travelling on aeroplanes, i.e. when he had no access to television. Many aeroplanes now have televisions, but I expect the writer is speaking of the older ones that do not.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Plz, what is meant by the expressions : (work a computer) and (the date-stamps lined up on the empty library insert) ?? Thanks

Hello Sharshar,

The phrase 'work a computer' here means 'use a computer'. We use it in the context of using appliances and devices as part of your duties: a receptionist might have to work the phones, for example.

Libraries put their stamps with the date when a borrowed book is to be returned on sheets of paper inside the books. The speaker here is saying that he liked to look at the sheet and see how each stamp, with a different date, was positioned under the last.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Working life was hard to get used to after so much theory. I want to ask about the meaning of ( so much theory ) here?? i know that much is followed by plural so why is not it so much theories? especially that theory in the passage refereed to post-structuralism, existentialism and situationism which is plural not single ?! Thanks

Hello Sharshar,

'theory' can be used as a count or uncount noun, and in the sentence you ask about, it is used as an uncount noun. 'much' is used with singular and uncount nouns ('many' is what you should use with plural nouns) so it is correct here. When the writer says 'theory' here, he's referring to post-structuralism and the things he read in books at university, which he contrasts with the more practical skills he needed in the workplace.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Nowadays not many people read they prefer chat on line or watch TV, but for my it is a way to meet the world.