A book wave is on

BOOKS HAVE become an intimate part of the successful and knowledgeable person's life, says Vidya Virkar, who looks after Strand Book Stall's Bangalore store on Dickenson Road.

Busy with the ongoing annual book festival at The Estate next door, she took time off to discuss books and the reading habit, especially among the young.

"Urban India ha become truly literate and a new wave of reading and interest in books is sweeping our cities'' she said. As if to prove her point, a couple with young children file past, loaded with books and heading for the billing counter.

She refers to how conversation goes at gatherings. People ask each other "have your read this?" or quote from books they have just read. "Of course, there are differences in reading habits and that's because of one's early exposure to books. Those exposed to books from childhood tend to read books on a variety of subjects. Some for sheer pleasure, others for knowledge. Those who begin the reading habit later in life tend to start with self-help books or those on management or a subject related to their profession.''

What gladdens people like her in the book trade is the way young parents actually bring their children to bookstores and sales and avidly pick up books. Some may be of the serious kind but more are likely to be story books; often, books the parents themselves grew up with. Many such books for children have a timeless appeal.

One reason why the reading habit has picked up among children could be well-stocked school libraries, many with qualified librarians.

"School principals who come to select books often ask me to recommend a good librarian. It shows the importance given to school libraries'' Vidya said. "The encouragement for reading books has to first come from the parents. Parents who are avid readers don't even have to ask their kids to read, it just happens''.

Another encouraging trend is the slow but steady rise of Indian authors, writing for children and adults, and their increasing acceptance among readers.

The annual sale — now on its ninth edition — is Strand's way of seeing how low prices can be brought down for good books.

Over the years, people from other cities too had started coming to Bangalore in time for the annual sale.

By Satyamurty K

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