“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” – Elizabeth Hardwick

It’s back! The Colombo International Book Fair (CIBF) that brings all bookworms together is back at the BMICH for the umpteenth time from September 16 to 25.

We decided to visit the book fair on a Monday morning, hoping everyone is miserable at work because it is a Monday. Our hopes for a quiet hassle-free environment was of course shattered because Monday did not stop the bookworms from wandering among the shelves of books from the Sarasavi stall to the M.D. Gunasena stall to our much loved second hand book stalls.

The ability to read is a powerful tool, but a passion for reading is an even more powerful quality. We develop our passion for reading at the earliest of ages. When we are young children our parents or the adults in our lives read to us. We have yet to gain the ability to read the words ourselves, but by being read to we have opened the door to a world of wonder.

Thus, we decided to speak to several of these people, to ask them why they come to the book fair.

Shanaya Fernando: Every year I wait for the month of September, which is the reading month. I am an avid reader and this month is my favourite simply because books are cheaper and of course, the book fair. I came here on the first day as well and bought books for almost Rs 5000. I came back today to look at the stationery which is yet another passion of mine.

Hasini Peiris: I am a painter. Not as a profession, of course but as a hobby and paint equipment, brushes and canvas are so much cheaper at the book fair. I wait for it every year to stock up on all the paint.

Janith Hapuarachchi: My girlfriend drags me to the book fair every single year for the past three years since we started dating. As my third consecutive year coming to the book fair I must say all the reading is rubbing off on me. I even bought a book this time which according to my girlfriend is a huge achievement.

Sunil Gayashan: Reading is my passion and I think I have passed it on to my son as well. I came today not for myself but for him. He gave me a list of books to buy and explicitly asked me to go in the morning to buy them. He says the books might sell out by the time he comes after school. So here I am with a list of books to buy which will hopefully not bankrupt me.

Aaron Fernando: There are several books that we must read before we die. I have made a bucket list of books to read and each year I come to the book fair to find my books. However, the problem with my bucket list is I seem to add more and more as I live and the numbers of books seem to increase rather than decrease. I guess that’s where my passion is, in reading. And so I return to BMICH each and every year.

Books do often ignite a passion within us and reading we learn is a way of escape to many people.

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.”- Alberto Manguel