On my way into work, I met three small friends, off to the local library to join in the Summer Reading Challenge.  Their unabated enthusiasm was joyful.  We stood chatting about their new discovery, Lyra, heroine of Philip Pulman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy.  Each had a different observation, or prediction, to make about where the story was going.  It was lovely.

Their enthusiasm is why I am so supportive of the Summer Reading Challenge, a scheme based in our libraries, that encourages children aged 4 to 11 to read six library books during the long summer holiday.  I did this as a child and it fuelled my love for reading that I still cherish today.  Without that thirst for books, and the huge enjoyment I derive from reading, I know my own education would have suffered.

One-in-six of the UK’s working age adults finds reading difficult and may never pick up a book.  That is such a pity.  Too many of us don’t, or can’t, read regularly.  For me, reading fact and fiction imparts a richer understanding of the world around me, of other people’s lives, our history and other cultures.  Reading, usually a novel, is often the impetus to make changes in my life, or relationships.

For my holiday reading, I’ve packed the third of Abir Mukherjee’s historical crime series, based in 1920s India, “Smoke and Ashes.”  They whetted my appetite to know more, so the non-fiction “Highness:  Maharajahs of India,” went in, too.  “This Orient Isle:  Elizabethan England and the Islamic World,” recommended by some young women from Plashet school, is also in there and Kamila Shamsie’s “Home Fire” the chosen book for the first ever Labour Women MPs’ book club in September.

I’m still a huge crime fiction fan, so alongside Mukherjee’s trilogy, I recommend Antony Horowitz’s “The Word is Murder;” the “Ruth Galloway” series, by Elly Griffiths; the “Frida Klein” series, by Nicci French; either of Anna Mazzola’s two novels and a new Icelandic find, Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

Whatever you choose to read, or not to read, I hope you have a thoroughly enjoyable summer.

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