As someone who loves reading – novels, articles, magazines, newspapers, blogs and the back of cornflake packets if need be – I watched BBC 4’s programme ‘How reading made us modern’ with interest the other night.
It is something I take completely for granted, that I can (and often do) spend the entire day hoovering up information by reading. What the programme brought home to me however, is that this is a fairly recent privilege, especially for women.
I was quite shocked to think that, had I been around in the 18th century, my reading habit would have had to be a secret. Women used to have to hide away to read, retiring to a small, private room to lose themselves in a novel. I also learned that reading aloud used to be a common evening pastime in the 18th century – how brilliant to have a story read to you as an adult, not just as a child.
Today I will be looking at the long, long reading lists for my course in an entirely different light.