Ken Haigh is a librarian and the author of Under the Holy Lake: A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan (University of Alberta Press).
This is one man’s journey to get back his reading mojo by eschewing all literary classics and embarking on Children’s literature. His alternate title for the article was ‘How Children’s Literature Saved My Life’ but he felt that was rather melodramatic in light of the fact that his life was never in any danger. Ken Haigh found himself in a situation familiar to many of us – lives over-flowing with work and pleasure pursuits, dependents and duties, chores and choices, and not in a good way. The first thing to go was the endeavour of reading. I can relate to this.
Haigh begins by giving us the run down of his lifestyle when this all happened, making it clear that his reading had significantly ‘dropped off’. He was down to one or maybe two books a month, so in order to try and ignite the reading flame he joined a book group and found himself just adding pressure to his already stressful life. Anyone else guilty of this? I know I am. So he stopped reading. This is huge for readers. To me, reading is the same as exercise and if I don’t get any, I start to feel claustrophobic and closed down. For a librarian handling books all day, this seems like madness! For Haigh, he was rescued by a fellow librarian, the Children’s librarian. She proffered Harry Potter as a taster, and once Haigh had devoured that, he was hooked. Fantasy and magical realism is a wonderful place to start reading again. I’ve had similar moments in my life when I’ve felt compelled to only read the Classics and then find myself bogged down by language and history. I too have embarked on different genres to help lift me out of that. My favourite help came from the series sparked by The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, but I’m also still enjoying the series of books about the St Marys Institute of Historical Research by Jodi Taylor. I’m a librarian and a complete fool for any story about libraries.
So for Ken Haigh, he had found his way back into reading. After J.K. Rowling, came Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. He also branched out on children’s books he felt he missed out on in his youth – Swallows and Amazons, The Wind in the Willows. You’ll be pleased to know he hasn’t given up on adult fiction, but would like us to at least try out or revisit the universe’s of our youth where anything can happen, even magic. I for one, agree.
This is a wonderful article in Foxed Quarterly, well written and appealing for everyone. I enjoyed the openness of the bibliotherapy aspect, as well as, of course, the librarian perspective.
- Pages: 96
- Format: 210 x 148mm
- Publication date: Mar 2016
- Producer: Printed and bound by Smith Settle, Yeadon, West Yorkshire
- Cover artist: Alice Pattullo, ‘The Potting Shed’
- ISBN: 978-1-906562-98-4
- ISSN: 1742-5794