Can reading make you happy?

Can reading make you happy?

This article on the BBC news site today makes some interesting points about access to wisdom and the value of libraries as free repositories of knowledge. I am certainly of the belief that reading is important. But can it make us happy? It is like the point Alain de Botton makes in his book, The Architecture of Happiness, does architecture make you happy or does the happy person just appreciate beauty more?

I have read books as if my life depended on it since I was a child. I can see that there is a fine balance between experiencing the word outside and learning about the world within, but I cannot undervalue the importance of being exposed to new ideas. A lecturer said to me once, when I was back at University, that there were three types of people: those who talk about each other, those who talk about things and those who talk about ideas. I strive to be the third type of person (although, as a designer, the ‘thing’ requires discussion as well as the ideas behind it) and I cannot help but judge a book by its cover – there are people who spend their lives engaged in the kind of design that relies on you doing just that. But the real, honest to goodness, joy of books – for me – is that they are a direct access to someone else’s world. To their way of seeing things, describing things, and of solving problems. And that ability to understand other people’s worlds, and to communicate directly to them in the appropriate way, is what makes me a good designer. I couldn’t do that without books – talking to people is important too, but it is knowledge, language and imagination, all of which is fed by reading, that makes me good at what I do.

Reading makes us rich in the things that really matter.

Launching my new site

Launching my new site

So, I have been building a new website to showcase some of my personal work. So far it hasn’t actually got the portfolio section done – so my work will be on various social networking sites. You can visit the new site here or you can see my commercial work at

Ps. Alfie has moved.


In attempt to convince myself I have done housework, I have rearranged some of my books – in fairness this involved a bit of dusting, so it isn’t so much of leap. I have always strugled with how to group the books I have. I have six bookcases in three rooms and I have to keep books togther which make the most sense to be grouped together. I used to keep them alphabetically by author for fiction, and otherwise by bookshop category (ie. history, philosopy, travel, cookery, gardening, etc.) The a-z for fiction doesn’t work. It means that books are not grouped by size (which looks untidy) and that if you get a new book, or decide to get rid of some, you have to shuffle the whole lot along to make or lose space. It’s inefficient. So I have decided that by bookshop category, then grouped together by author (all books by the same author together) is the way forward. This means I can have books by my favourite authors in more prominant positions, it also means I can group according to size a lot of the time. This makes me happy. Today I have created a new shelf/new group of books spanning philosophy, popular science, critical theory, biography, history and travel. This is my ‘modern life survival kit’ shelf.

Books I’ve bought/books I’ve read

Very much like Nick Hornby’s column in Believer magazine, I am going to record the titles of those books I have bought, and those I have read, along with comment, review and potentially, justification for these.

Go slow England – Alistair Sawday
The moneyless man – Mark Boyle
Free – Katherine Hibbert
The age of absurdity – Michael Foley
AA 50 walks in the Peak District
The pleasures and sorrows of work – Alain de Botton

The Age of Absurdity – Michael Foley

There’s a prevailing theme influencing my book purchases at the moment – it is a dissatisfaction with modern life, with hearing people talk about shopping and Eastenders all the time, with working hard all week, only to be too busy, or too tired to enjoy my free time. I am reading about contemporary thinking on modern society and its obsession with luxury, celebrity and entitlement. There have been some interesting television programmes recently tackling these issues, as well as long-running newspaper columns. I am not looking in these books for an answer, I am looking for inspiration and, I suppose, comradery. I am looking for the voices of people who agree with me, who share my concerns and ideas.

The walking book is for places to visit to escape the relentless consumerism, the slow England book is to plan my next getaway.

On food and eating

A Guardian article on the British obsession with Italian cookery got me thinking about why I love Italian food. If I had to choose a favourite cuisine it would be Italian. Apart from the obvious – the taste – what is it about Italian food that so darn great? It’s easy, it’s the passion. Italian food is about art, not science. It is rustic, nourishing for body and soul, it is served with love. I might be being a little short-sighted here, but I cannot imagine Italian families feeding their kids chips, kebabs, etc when Italian food is so entrenched in family and community.

Introducing Alfie

Introducing Alfie

I am an absolute sucker for a sad story. Meet Alfie, this photo was taken when he was at the RSPCA, which is where he’s spent most of his life. He’s about a year old and he’s never lived in a proper home. He is very, very nervous and has spent the past 11 hours hiding under my sofa. But I am hoping that one day he will be brave enough to come out.

Meeting the Poet Laureate

Meeting the Poet Laureate

This evening I was fortunate enough to go to a poetry reading by Carol Ann Duffy. Now I know a lot of people might think of a poetry reading as a stuffy, dry affair but this was far from it.

My expectations were high because I am a massive fan of Duffy’s work. I bought The World’s Wife when I was the tender age of nineteen. I loved it. It was funny and clever and thoughtful. I had previously never considered that poetry could be this much fun. I’ve bought every collection she has had published since. I have to say I think it’s fantastic that Duffy’s poetry is studied in schools now, I kind of wish it had been when I was there.

So back to the evening: less than ideal sound levels meant that she was stooping over towards the microphone to ensure we could all hear properly, and she did it with grace and humour, although it can’t have been a comfortable position to stand in for an hour. The poems, funny on the page, were hilarious when read by their charismatic author. And the stories she told us about how the poems came about, or things that had come from writing them were similarly entertaining. I dragged along a friend who had never read a word of her poetry, and I think he left a convert. It was utterly thrilling meeting her for a book signing afterwards and it was a marvelous evening. If you ever get the chance to hear her, I suggest you do so.


I couldn’t have realised it, but the photo I posted of Boz yesterday was the last one. He died of heart failure this morning and I am heart broken. He was an awesome little cat, an amazing sense of trust for one who’d been through so much. I will miss him terribly.

(migrated from old blog)