April 23rd: World Book Day

Today, April 23rd, is World Book Day. So please, don’t forget to open a book. Today and every day. And read. Here at the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues we take books seriously. And we have fun with them, too. Many of the people we invite to campus are distinguished authors who have written timely and influential books. During this pandemic when things have slowed down some for many of us, perhaps we are finding more time to enjoy reading. I hope so. There is extensive scientific research on the benefits of reading, and these benefits go beyond just getter smarter. For example, a study in the journal Science found that reading literary fiction can make us more empathetic. (Maybe that was Don Quijote’s problem: he went crazy reading trashy stories of chivalry.) The Clarke Forum has hosted hundreds of authors over the years. A recommendation for today from our archive: novelist Yoko Tawada interviewed by student project manager Kaila Basile. After you listen to this fascinating interview, you may want to read Tawada’s The Lost Children of Tokyo, a novel that seems especially pertinent at the present moment.

How many of you know why World Book Day is celebrated on this date? Curiously, it is the date, but not the day on which both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died in 1616. At that time Spain was using the Gregorian calendar, but England was still using the Julian calendar. Shakespeare actually died ten days after Cervantes, which would have been May 3d, if we were applying the Gregorian calendar retrospectively. Fun facts. But really, this brief note is mainly just a bit of encouragement for all of us: let’s keep sharing our reading-based discoveries!