Reading is a wonderful way to escape the real world, and a cheap way to forget about your troubles. Here in Colombia, though, it seems that very few people read for pleasure on a regular basis.
Picking up a book to read can be a fantastic form of entertainment. Reading fiction can help you to forget about - or simply ignore - the real world for a short time. Books can be funny, moving, interesting, exciting, inspiring, frightening, or thrilling. Sometimes even all of the above and more. Books are places where you can let your imagination run wild.
For those who don't like the world of fiction, however, there are plenty of choices in the non-fiction section: biographies and autobiographies allow a reader to learn about a specific person, and entire floors of bookshops are filled with books on all subjects from history to music to film, to anything you can imagine.
Back in Colombia, there is a strong literary tradition. Colombia has many well-known authors who have written - and continue to create - many wonderful and compelling stories. On the international level, Colombia also enjoys an excellent reputation: the books and short stories written by the country's very own Gabriel García Márquez are famous around the world. As well as writing novels that are read across the globe, some - including "Love in the Time of Cholera" - have also been turned into very successful films.
With such a wide choice of genres, and such exceptional home-grown talent, then, why do so few Colombians read? I spent the first few months of my time in Colombia asking this very question. After a quick visit to the local bookshop, though, I quickly found an answer to this question.
Bookshops here are often filled with "classic" books. Almost all were written over 100 years ago, many even longer ago. As a result the language is very difficult for the modern reader.
These "classics" are important and excellent works - including the likes of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Homer and Voltaire - but they are not easy reading. They are books that require a lot of effort to understand and, therefore, are not relaxing. Consequently, they are off-putting for many people, particularly Colombians.
Colombians are not lazy people and I am sure that they would enjoy reading. They just need to be given more and better choices.
Do you like reading a lot? Are there lots of good choices of books where you live?