When one travels by public transport while abroad, it isn’t uncommon to see most of the passengers on board a bus, metro or train reading some kind of book.
Sadly, this isn’t such a regular sight in Malta, an observation that is backed up by statistics. Studies regularly show the country performing dismally when it comes to how many books the average citizen reads every year.
Malta’s lack of love for the written word is something that saddens People & Skin Founder and CEO Joanna Delia, who says reading is both her escape from the world and the main way in which she feels connected to the rest of humanity.
“I have very little respect for people who don’t read. It hurts that the Maltese keep ranking last in Europe with respect to the number of books they read. We need to change this,” she says.
Joanna admits that she stopped reading for a while herself.
“Reading was the activity I missed most when my kids were tiny. Fortunately for the last couple of years, I’ve been back at it full throttle.”
In fact, she says she is now infamous among those who know her for packing an entire suitcase of books when she travels, adding that she prefers physical books to digital media.
“A single idea or a complex allegory exploded and expanded in tens of thousands of words cannot ever be replaced by online portal headlines or tweets.”
Due to her medical background, Joanna read a lot of non-fiction in her student years, but she says that even though she still loves gaining scientific knowledge, she much prefers fiction these nowadays
I still read peer-reviewed papers in journals, of course, and essays by reputable journalists and opinion writers. But a non-fiction book that’s not a fact textbook bores me. I consider them to be mostly long drawn out opinions with sensational edges and twists, concocted to sell lots of copies, she says, adding that she also has no time for self-help books.
“I much prefer literature – fiction, novels… I read a lot of classics growing up, and now I read contemporary literature – I love seeing the world from the author’s lens or pen – there is no pretension of having to be true to reality.
“Writers, like all types, of artists are persons who can communicate complex emotions, the human condition, understand conflicts, Understanding diversity – the beauty in it and the small steps forward and backwards of the (re)integration process in different societies across time.
Joanna says that reading should be a key habit for any businessperson.
“Every company owner and employer should first and foremost strive to understand society and the human condition. Reading helps me explore some of the infinite number of situations my employees and patients go through. And it helps me see them as more complete persons.
Getting Joanna to pin down her favourite books of all time proves difficult due to her eclectic tastes.
“Historical fiction – Independent People by Icelandic Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. Hadrian’s Memoirs by Marguerite Yourcenar for showing how the progress of the Roman Empire in terms of engineering, science and politics, and their love of beauty, was squandered by religious conflict in the Mediterranean and Europe for 1,500 years until the renaissance reignited those values.”
Joanna also lists books by Arundhati Roy, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene, Ayn Rand and Haruki Murakami among her most loved.
As for what one book she thinks everyone should read, she replies:
“Recommending one book would be ignorant of me. No one book is more important than any other. Look what happened when they flaunted the Bible. I recommend reading as many books as possible. Look for the Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners, and Noble Prize-winning authors.
Having said that, Joanna does have one book recommendation for local politicians.
“I do wish they would read The Lorax by Dr Seuss.”
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