Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Biblio Files, Part Four: Ex Libris Layna Pimentel

All this week at the Den we’ll be exploring our love affair with reading through various contributors. I’ve asked a diverse group of people what their thoughts are on books, and how they’ve inspired us.

Coming up after this post by yours truly is Layna Pimentel, who has graciously agreed to appear here and write about why she loves books, and the importance of literacy for children. Hope you enjoy Part Four of the Biblio Files ...

The Desert Island Game
By David Hunter

If you could only have one book while stranded on a desert island what would you choose?

For an inveterate reader like me this is a hellish question – stranded on an island? With only one book?? Just hang me now?

This question has been asked of many things; music, food – but what about books? What book would you choose to spend all that time – maybe years – reading before you go mad and toss it into the ocean or off a cliff (an impossibility: I’d never toss a book off a cliff. I’d just keep reading it …) as a voracious consumer of the written word I always need something to keep my eyes busy. If there’s nothing else around, I’ll even read a detergent label to sate my soul. Any port in a storm, I always say.

So what would you choose? Here are some types of books that you might get stuck with. Please remember, I have a penchant for the absurd.

A Phone Book
You’d never finish it!

A James Joyce, or a James Michener book
These tomes are generally 1000 + pages … by the time you start re-reading them you’ll have forgotten what happened at the beginning.

The Back of a Cereal Box
I’d just have to kill myself. Or read the bark on a tree.

A Copy of Reader’s Digest
Those 'Life’s Like That' pages never get old!

A Biology Book
Well, it’s no Gone with the Wind, but you’ll learn something! You’ll be dissecting wild-life on that desert island in no time.

Algebra for Dummies
Just hang me.

Encyclopedia Britannica Vol M-P
It doesn’t get any worse.

Any Book, as long as it’s a big fat one with 1200 pages

An instruction book on how to build a raft and get off of a deserted island before you go crazy because you have nothing to read.

A Graphic Novel
Now we’re talking! You can look at pictures all day!

A Hardy Boys Mystery
As long as the pages are thin enough to cut my throat with.

A Brain Teaser Book
What if it’s too hot to think?

A Large Webster’s Dictionary
I’m probably the only person who would choose this.

Canadian Tax Code Book for 1978
You could easily use the pages from this book to build a fire to keep warm with!

The Cat in the Hat
I could only Imagine how my brain would atrophy after being stuck on a deserted island with this book for 5 years.

Shakespeare, Whitman, or maybe Ginsberg
A book of poetry is always a good choice of reading on a deserted island – you can recite verse to the trees!

The Screenplay to Ishtar
Generally I wouldn’t mind being stuck on an island with a screenplay as my only source of reading material as long as that screenplay is not Ishtar.

In all seriousness …

So, what would you choose? I’m looking forward to hearing what kind of books some of you would pick to be stranded with. As I type this, I am really struggling to choose one myself.

One book to spend 5 years with …

Your comments are welcome!

As promised, here's our guest post today, by Layna Pimentel ...

The Fight for Literacy
by Layna Pimentel

"..libraries are overwhelmed with out-dated materials and the only ones who are suffering are our children ..."

So, the question of the day is, why do I love books. There are far too many reasons to list, but here goes.

While people go to the gym, shop, eat and drink to de-stress, I read. It’s the only way I know how to relax without having to drag a bathtub around. Besides, you can fit a paperback novel into your purse with ease and take it anywhere with you. You never know when you’re going to get stuck in that traffic jam for a few hours or be in a line up at the grocery store.

There’s something calming about taking a time-out in the middle of the work day, to sit outside under a tree and completely surrender to a good book. It gives you an opportunity to unwind, before tackling that dreaded report you’ve only been staring at for the last four hours.

Other than a midday distraction, one of my other reasons for reading is to escape, and not to Fantasy Island. I don’t care who you are, but all of us can admit to wishing we were someone else for just a little while. Whether it's the damsel in distress, or a Wizard just about to unleash something truly wicked. We’ve all had a moment or two where we’ve imagined what we would do in that situation instead of this character.

You’re probably thinking I’m out of my mind, but kids aren’t the only ones allowed to have those kinds of thoughts or imagination. Whether you’re a published author or not, I think it’s fantastic when you can invoke that kind of emotion in someone. You’re no longer reading just a line on a page, but an experience that draws you in and creates an adventure all your own.

While books can take up plenty of space, they’ll last a lot longer than a child’s favorite stuffed animal or a pair of stiletto’s, which will be out of style by next month. So why not love them?

You don’t have to buy them, you could borrow from the library for free, or you can also swap books with friends. The nice thing about swapping them is you’re likely to get a good one if your friend enjoyed it and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted a few bucks.

While I’ve probably given you more than enough reasons why I love books, I just wish there wasn’t the nagging thought in the back of my head of how many Canadians don’t actually get to enjoy reading them because of their lack of literacy skills.

For example, did you know that back in 2005 approximately 9 million Canadian’s had low literacy skills? I’ll be honest, I was taken aback with that figure. I would have never thought there were that many people missing out on the simple pleasure of reading a novel.

Did you also know that in 2001 teachers and principals spent $143 million dollars of their own money to buy books and learning materials for their students? I can’t begin to tell you how much the fact saddens me. Our school libraries are overwhelmed with out-dated materials and the only ones who are suffering are our children.

It’s so sad when we take in to account how fortunate we are, and yet we’re still faced with these problems. I’m a firm believer that change starts at home, and only then will it branch out from there.

For more information on how you can help out our schools and World Literacy Canada, check out the links at the end of this post.

Well, now it’s my turn to ask you the question, why do you love books? And if you say they make excellent paper weights, I really don’t know how well I’d take that as an answer. Please feel free to leave a comment, your feedback is always appreciated.

Layna Pimentel

Links to check out:

Indigo Love of Reading Foundation

World Literacy of Canada

Related Madness -- Don't miss these previous posts:
The Biblio Files, Part Three, With Valerie Brooks and ggSpirit
The Biblio Files, Part Two, with Donna Carrick
The Biblio Files, Part One, With David Hunter and Joseph Lane


  1. Hard to imagine what could be worse than being stuck on a deserted island with Algebra for Dummies or the Canadian Tax Code book. But I didn't have to imagine because Layna Pimentel's guest post shines a light on what would be worse. To not be able to read either of those gawd-awful books (sorry math lovers, I know you're out there). To not be able to escape or expand my world as I'm entertained and delighted by words is unimaginable to me. Literacy is a worthy cause, indeed. Now I'm off to joyfully read every guest post this week.

  2. And the really sad part is, It's very difficult for us as well-read adults to understand how embarrassing and painful it must be to not be able to read properly. I Imagine it must be hell.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for dropping by ...

  3. Actually I'm going to go against convention and say if I was stuck on a deserted island - the only book I would want would be a blank journal! I could chronicle everything that happened to me there, including where to find food, a map, wildlife sketches, cool places to hang out. At least then if someone else gets stuck there after I'm gone they'll have something to read too. :)

  4. Oooo, thinking outside the box huh? A blank journal ... interesting ...

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