I attended a pleasant book event at The Hilt a week ago. Writer Ann Morgan shared how she spent a year reading the world.
Ann Morgan read 196 books a year in 2012 when the world gathered for the London Olympics.
The talk was unusual because it was done in an unconventional order.
We had an ‘interval’ session well before the speaker arrived. Ann Morgan was about one hour late as ten minutes before the train was about to pull into Winchester station, the train came to a halt, and later the train was forced to turn back to Woking.
A teenage boy was hit by a train at Winchester, according to Daily Echo. The station was shut and all services were suspended. Ann wrote about her journey in Person under a train post in her blog, A Year of Reading the World.
While waiting for the speaker, the longer we waited, the more it felt like Waiting For Godot. You never knew when the speaker might appear. Her talk might be cancelled. Should I leave? How long should I wait before I leave and not to be considered rude? Would the audience get a refund? These survival questions rushed into my mind.
The organiser at The Hilt got busy in times of crisis. They offered free ice cream to the audience – you normally have to pay £2 for a small tub at an interval for ice cream. The ice cream was quickly eaten. What’s next? Gin and tonic? Karaoke? Stand-up comedy? Magic show? Luckily, Ann Morgan appeared with a big smile despite an exhausting journey, thanks to Graham Hooper, who went all the way to Winchester station then Southampton station to pick her up.
More than just reading
Ann Morgan’s project was interesting. She decided to read one book from each country. She also read a book from Taiwan, though Taiwan is not politically a country.
Ann shared how she read 3-4 books a week. She also spent an equal amount of time doing research and connecting to people. She interviewed some writers over the phone too. Through social networking and her blog, she asked her readers to help her choose books from their own countries. The suggestions she received were overwhelming. People sent her books, and some people even helped her translate stories that had not been translated into English yet. People all over the world have showered her with kindness, and she felt humbling.
Ann Morgan’s talk was not just about the joy of reading books. It was also about her fascinating reading journey around books and the connection and friendship that she has built with people from different cultures and countries.
She has turned her searching and reading into a big story itself. Now the success of her reading reaps the rewards. Her book, Reading the World: Postcards from my Bookshelf, will be published by Harvill Secker in 2015.
The power of networking
At Talks at the Hilt, Ann Morgan shared powerfully the joy of reading, and how people all over the world are touched by a good story, and how people are passionate about a good book or a good story.
She also showed us the power of networking, and how she successfully used social media in spreading the word to help her germinate her great adventure in books. Without the public involvement, her joy of reading would have been confined to her own study. With the power of networking, her reading felt like playing a MMO (Massive Multi-player Online) game where all players could take part simultaneously across different time zones.
It was a joyous evening being at The Hilt. It was my first visit. I was impressed by the space and the facility of the Cuckoo Bushes Hall. There were about 80 people in the hall for such a stimulating cultural talk. We enjoyed our free ice cream; we had some laughs. Yet the same evening, Eddie Pearse, the 18-year-old teenage boy who had recently finished his A-Levels at Peter Symonds College, lost his life. It was a surreal evening: life and death, joy and sorrow, fiction and real life.