"Mrs Winterson [Jeanette's mother] always objected to book-reading on the grounds that, ‘The trouble with a book is that you never know what’s in it until it’s too late.’ How true. Anybody who spends time with real books knows that they are dangerous objects likely to blow up in your face. Good books are detonating devices, and able to trigger something in the mind of the reader – a memory perhaps, or a revelation, or an understanding not possible by other means. Not for nothing was Madam Bovary kept away from trapped French housewives…. I have argued before that it is this unaccountability to external authority that makes reading both defiant, and an act of free will. The CCTV and the Webcam, the bugged phone, and the surveillance systems can do nothing about the private dialogue between reader and writer. When books are banned or censored we concentrate on their content, forgetting the more sinister implications of what reading stands for, and why it poses a threat...
"Freedom of choice, as it is called, floods the market with trash, so that readers are genuinely bewildered about what is and isn’t worth the time, and books are marketed as five-day-wonder disposable objects. Bookshops are no longer places to browse. Reading itself has been downgraded from something that matters, to something you might do when your iPod is broken or there is nothing on TV.
"We are not supposed to say that some books are better than others, or that reading those books can make a difference to the way we understand ourselves, and ourselves in the world.
"The fact is that real books teach us how to read between the lines. That is a skill that everyone needs these days. You may think that the better newspapers can do that for us, but I don’t believe in passivity of any kind. Thinking for yourself is not only an intellectual exercise – it is an imaginative leap. Books make the leap."