Digitisation of the story brings joy of reading to all

Digitisation has helped to make books more accessible, bringing the joy of reading to all

THE pandemic helped reignite a new-found appreciation of the written word. Storytelling and its innate ability to spark the imagination offered a welcome reprieve from the reality of lockdown. More time spent at home soon resulted in more time spent with books, as self-confessed non-readers picked up what was perhaps their first novel. Avid bookworms, on the other hand, only added to their collection.

And it shows. Last year the number of physical books sold in the UK climbed above 212 million, the highest tally since 2012. But the story, like everything else, has gone digital. The printed page has proliferated onto multiple mediums, with eBooks and audiobooks, in particular, surging in popularity.

This digitisation has only helped to make books more accessible, bringing the joy of reading to all whether we experience new stories via e-readers, tablets, phones or even headphones.

How we read is changing. Thanks to digital advancements, it's now easier for us to choose the when and the where. Whether you're travelling abroad this summer break, visiting the rugged coast of Ireland, or simply taking a breather at home, here is some reading inspiration from the Aiken team's bookshelf. Digital or otherwise…

Beginning with a Belfast gem, ‘The Troubles With Us'. One Belfast Girl on boys, bombings and finding her way. A memoir of Northern Ireland journalist and author Alix O'Neill growing up on the Falls Road in 1990s Belfast. If you are looking for a void to fill now that Derry Girls is over, this is the book for you! In broad terms it tells the story of O'Neill's eccentric family, who you quickly grow to love and covers everything from her childhood to the present day; tackling serious issues with laugh-out-loud humour!

Remaining in the archives, ‘Humankind: A Hopeful History' by Rutger Bregman provides a welcome tonic to the 24-hour news agenda and online echo chambers, serving as a pointed reminder that humans aren't always so bad. The author goes through history, pulling out accounts and instances of challenging times where humans have come together and thrived in the face of adversity. Real-life accounts of where humans have shown the best in us, and that kindness and altruism are, as a species, innate in our bones. Stories such as the real-life version of ‘Lord of the Flies' will leave you with greater optimism for the world around us.

A different helping of inspiration, seasoned with culinary adventures and irreverential style, can be found within the pages of Anthony Bourdain's excellent memoir ‘Kitchen Confidential'. Bourdain's wit and incisiveness, his passion and his brutal honesty, make for a work that is original and truly unmatched in food writing. The hilarity of anecdotes, such as his response to the misheard question at a job interview, ‘What do you know about meat?' with Bourdain, the seasoned chef blowing the interview by answering ‘next to nothing' having heard ‘What do you know about me?', are laugh out loud while his tales of the unpredictability of chefs will resonate with those who have worked in kitchens the world over. But above all those chapters in which his passion for food and the joy of eating are most evident, such as in Mission to Tokyo, are delicious. The book is a must for any greedy gourmand.

From the kitchen to the lab, Bonnie Garmus' ‘Lessons in Chemistry', a debut novel from the 64-year-old former copywriter, is a story that careers between tragedy and comedy via science and the bitter fight for equality of women in the 1960s. At the centre of the novel is Elizabeth Zott, a gifted research chemist, but being a woman in science then was a lonely and hard road. Elizabeth becomes a national somebody not in the lab but in the kitchen hosting an afternoon television show called ‘supper at six'. Her nutritious dishes are doused in chemistry with a side order of female empowerment with lots of laugh out loud moments.

From the 60s to the 70s, Bob Iger's ‘Ride of a Lifetime' charts a real-life journey like no other. The future CEO of The Walt Disney Company took the helm in 2005 to begin a 15-year stewardship of the Mouse House that effectively reshaped modern entertainment. Iger recounts in great detail how he managed Disney's four landmark acquisitions – Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox – and his measured approach to each visionary in charge, including Steve Jobs. Peppered throughout this personal journey is a series of lessons in leadership, revealing not only Iger's commitment to forever place decency over dollars, but a relentless pursuit of creativity that is equal parts insightful and inspiring. A candid peek behind the curtain draped over Disney's magic kingdom.

Less an entertainment empire and more a football dynasty, Alex Ferguson's ‘My Autobiography' is a bookshelf staple for sports fans. An up-close and personal account of the man who reshaped England's top-flight football, becoming the most successful British manager of all time. His is a story that recounts the 27-year tenure at Manchester United, the glory days, the class of '92 and yes, those gut-wrenching goodbyes to some of the club's most iconic players, including David Beckham and Roy Keane. Ferguson reflects on his most iconic rivalries with Arsene Wenger's Arsenal and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in the late 90s and early 2000s. This is the beautiful game told through the lens of a living legend.

And finally, the legend of Ireland itself, as told by Fintan O'Toole, one of the country's most talented columnists and writers. ‘We Don't Know Ourselves' is O'Toole's personal history of Ireland from 1958 to the present day. Even if I haven't always agreed with him, I genuinely cannot remember not being fully immersed or evoked with some form of emotion when reading Fintan O'Toole's work, whether that's an 800-word column in the Irish Times or an 80,000-word book. But more than that, ‘We Don't Know Ourselves' creatively and intelligently sets out memories of Ireland's turbulent and transformative recent past. The critique in me found it a little slow to get going with political bias that won't square with all, but I'm nit-picking, it's another of his immersive and emotional reads… and highly recommended.

Enjoy the summer wherever it takes you… and happy reading!

:: Claire Aiken is managing director of public relations and public affairs company Aiken

:: Next week: Richard Ramsey

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