Various efforts have been made to promote the reading culture in Nepal, and they have had positive outcomes
I 'm not an avid reader, but I manage to read a lot of books in my idle time.
When I finish reading a book, I note down its name in my diary and even count the number of books I have read. The number crossed the three digit figure a long ago.
There's always a certain purpose behind what we do. If I disclose my purpose behind reading books, it would sound no less than a fairy tale. However, the purpose has changed now. I started reading books to avoid overusing the digital gadgets. I was so engrossed in my mobile phones and laptops that they had begun to ruin my health.
I needed a good distraction to avoid using them, and books came to my rescue.
In the early days, I was such a slow reader that it would take me weeks to finish a 300-page novel.
Over time, my interest in literature grew, and I started reading faster than I used to. Now I can finish a fiction of 300 pages in a single sitting.
Reading books that are not part of the curricula is still considered a waste of time in our society. Though the number of readers has increased over the years, this narrow notion is still keeping many people away from the realm of books and literature. Even I've come across such incidents when people mocked me for reading novels instead of textbooks. During one of those family gatherings, I was sitting on a chair with a book in my hand. Then, suddenly, an elderly relative commented, "Novels will take you nowhere. Stop reading these books and focus on your textbooks." I said nothing but smiled in acknowledgment.
The entire world has witnessed a huge loss in every sector in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. We've indeed have had to bear the loss in many ways, but I'm thankful that I got to read more books during the lockdown. Since there was nothing much to do, I was occupied with reading books.
Every other business slowed down during the pandemic, but I can say with surety that the bookshops were not much affected.
People ordered books online, and the business witnessed new readers during the lockdown.
The pandemic has undoubtedly increased the number of readers.
In this tech-savvy era, there are so many things to engage oneself in, and young people mostly prefer Netflix, Instagram and Facebook over reading books. Young people consume these apps for entertainment purposes, and there's a misconception among the youth that reading books doesn't serve that purpose. Only if they were to be convinced into believing that reading fiction is equally entertaining as watching the movie series, they might start reading books.
Another problem is, those who want to read don't know what to read.
This happens with almost everyone, and I was no exception.
In the early days when I started reading, I would stare at the bookshelves, not being able to choose what to read. Books with attractive covers fascinated me, and I used to buy ones with beautiful covers.
But that's not how you pick a book. My suggestion to the starters is, you should read what intrigues you.
Normally, we follow others' recommendations, and when the books don't meet our expectations, we lose interest in reading. To start with, one can choose fiction which is comparatively more interesting than other genres. But it's not necessary that my preference will be to your liking.
There's a thing I like about books: everyone has a unique preference.
My circle of friends grew bigger after I started reading books. I've even made friends while visiting bookshops.
Whenever I'm in the bookshop, I'm always keen to strike a conversation with the visitors there. That way, I get to learn about their field of interest. I also keep an eye on what people buy, and my observation suggests that the number of English book readers in Nepal is comparatively less than Nepali book readers.
But there is a decent population who enjoy reading English literature.
Especially, young readers are inclined towards English literature.
The time we are in demands a good command over the English language.
Reading books helps to improve the language. I often encounter people who aspire to learn English, and the first thing I tell them is to start reading English books. This way you'll learn vocabulary and also the correct usage of words. I don't know how much of it is true, but I've heard that people in India read books written by Chetan Bhagat to learn English.
If we observe the age group of the readers, we will see that that there are more aged readers than young ones.
Over the years, young people have shown an interest in books, but still, majority of the youth don't want to read books. This has to change, and for this, new tactics should be introduced. The book market should be commercialised so that it can reach out and influence the young population.
When a new film is released, we see its advertisement all over the internet and on TV. It catches the attention of everyone and gains popularity in no time.
Young people are the biggest consumers of the internet and what they see on the internet influences them. To draw the attention of the youth and to expand the market of books, literature should be commercialised.
If it is possible for film producers to promote their films, then what is stopping the publishers and authors from doing the same? It may work or it may not, but it should be experimented to see how it goes. Various efforts have been made to promote the reading culture in Nepal, and they have had positive outcomes.
Book clubs have been formed in different parts of the country. Even in Pokhara, where I dwell, there's a book club named 'What the Book Club' that has been organising a book discussion programme regularly. Amid the crisis, too, they held book discussions via Zoom.
This shows their enthusiasm towards literature andis also an indication that the upcoming generation is positive towards promoting the reading culture.
If it is possible for film producers to promote their films, then what is stopping the publishers and authors from doing the same? It may work or it may not, but it should be experimented to see how it goes.
A version of this article appears in the print on November 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.