A friend of a friend happened to mention that she doesn't read books. Not fiction ones anyway. She said that she'd "rather be living life than reading about made-up ones," and anyway "it makes you dissatisfied with everything, especially all that romance stuff." Which rather begged the question, "How do you know if you don't read books?"
I kept schtum because I don't know her that well and didn't want to upset my friend by suggesting her friend is clearly a bit poorly in the coconut.
Okay that's a bit harsh, but I was miffed by the implication that because I've read a love story or forty(thousand) in the past, I'm as bitter as an olive that men in real life tend not to be brooding, chiselled, tousle-haired heros in tight-fitting trousers, waiting to sweep me off my feet and ravish me. Well, not the ones I've met anyway. (All right, so I'm a tiny bit bitter.)
Neither am I limp with disappointment that I don't have a wardrobe full of vintage clothes and can't ride a horse - or run my own PR company, or whatever else friend of friend imagines lies between the pages of the books I read. And they're mostly not romance anyway. (Not that there's anything wrong with romance novels, obviously.)
I think she's missing out. Reading isn't a substitute for real life, it enhances it. Yes it's an indulgence and it's escapism, but so's getting pissed and she does that A LOT (apparently) and it's much worse for your liver.
Fiction increases your knowledge too - I've learnt loads over the years about culture, history, disability, science and, of course, human nature. It's given me a lot of comfort at times - and definitely stopped me from getting under my mum's feet when I was a child. (We didn't have a telly and I never did like Monopoly.)
Oh, and it's taught me how to commit the perfect murder without getting caught. Not that I ever would, you understand.
Unless our kitchen isn't finished by Christmas ...