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Q&A with Meg Mason on the Australian Reading Hour

September 11, 2017

Thursday 14th September 2017: pick up a book and read for an hour.
Find out more about the Australian Reading Hour here.

What is Australian Reading Hour?

The most wonderful concept I can think of, sort of like Earth Hour for the mind. I’m going to make sure that everyone I know is ready with a book at 6pm, but I can’t promise to stop reading at 7.

What are some of the benefits of reading?

Reading transports you to an entirely different time and place. Novels especially let you live another life, totally unlike your own. And especially important now, books draw you away from screens. Even though you can be entirely absorbed in what you’re reading, when there’s another person reading beside you, it still feels convivial somehow – and not like you’ve both disappeared down separate social media rabbit holes. Oh and, from a practical perspective as an author, it fills up your vocabulary and helps you to be a better writer.

When and where is your favourite place to read? 

I am absolutely indiscriminate. At home, in bed, the beach, cafes. I used to walk to work reading a book, despite the obvious threat to approaching pedestrians, and when I’ve just bought something new, I may have once or twice dipped in while sitting in traffic.

Where will you be reading on Thursday, 14 September?

With any luck, in a lovely quiet corner of my house but I’ll drop what I’m doing wherever I find myself.

Why are Australian stories and Australian books important?

I love reading books set anywhere by writers of any nationality, but Australian stories always resonate especially. You can smell the air, hear the birds and you naturally know the language, without the author having to do too much to get you there.

What is your favourite Australian book?

I think I have to say Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, because I read it when I lived in London in my early twenties and even though the Australia it is set it isn’t quite the Australia I know, it gave me the most overwhelming sense of homesickness. I’ve never forgotten it. As it happened, the stage production of the book opened at The National Theatre there at the same time. It ran to five hours but was so moving, it flew by.

What will you be reading on 14 September?

I’ve just started Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, but I’m so obsessed with it I think I’ll have finished it by 14 September. In which case, I’ll start on The Party by Elizabeth Day which I’ve heard amazing things about – and then there’s always the enormous pile of New Yorkers that need attending to.

Why are bookshops and shopping centres such important community hubs?

Books are a necessity and a luxury, so being able to take a few moments to poke around your local bookshop slows you down and lets you get lost in a way that say, sprinting around Woollies does not. I used to go to a bookshop in London called John Sandoe, in Chelsea, and I remember once when I was browsing, the door flew open and an older woman in a velvet cape stood on the threshold and shouted “Help! I need a novel!” I think most readers have felt like that at some point.

Meg Mason’s latest book, You Be Mother, is published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia.


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