Things you need to be able to read when you are 18

what to read whenYou’d think, after all that studying, that another reading activity was the last thing on an 18 year old’s mind… but the journey has only just begun. Here is a list of things I think an 18 year old should be able to read.

A map – Sometimes the TomTom, sat nav, iPhone etc. may not work, or it may mislead you. You are less likely to be lost if you can read a paper map. The only way to learn this is by doing it.

A recipe – Knowing how to cook and knowing how to read a recipe aren’t quite the same thing. If you learn to follow a recipe (though do start with a clear, tried and tested source, like Good Housekeeping or Delia Smith) then you will learn to cook.

A wine list – Yikes, you’re sitting in a posh restaurant with the potential companion of your dreams, you want to make a great impression. The sommelier hands you a wine list with a haughty expression. As he arches his eyebrows you are under pressure to pick a wine that will go with the meal; be enjoyed by both of you; and not so expensive you have to do the washing up for three weeks. The only real way to be comfortable about this is to learn about wine – a lifetime’s journey that can start in a supermarket. But, back to the restaurant … the simple option is to pick the “house wine” – generally it is less costly and generally it will taste fine because the restaurant’s reputation is vested in it. And as for whether to go for red or white, generally (again) red with meat and white with fish – but if you and your companion have a preference go with that – whatever the food and whatever the sommelier’s eyebrows do.

An invitation – Beyond Facebook and texting there are formal invitations with several things to look out for: date, time and place being the most straightforward. It is the call to action part you really have to watch out for, in particular RSVP. “Respondez s’il vous plait” means please reply, please tell me whether or not you are coming, please let me know that you have received this fabulous invitation. There are different formats for different kinds of reply – for example a formal wedding invitation reply has a traditional format which mirrors the invitation itself – email me for more information on this one because it is quite tricky.  And then there is the dress code: the risk of not reading this bit is that you are the only person at the party not in fancy dress, or – worse – the one dressed for a bbq when everyone else is in black tie.

Small Print – You don’t have to be a lawyer but, especially with things like travel insurance, it is worth reading through the small print to make sure it covers important eventualities, like needing to be helicoptered off a ski-slope

Proof Read – The problem with depending on spell check is neatly summed up in this poem:

Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marks four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word and weight for it to say
Weather eye yam wrong oar write.
It shows me strait a weigh as soon as a mist ache is maid.
It nose bee fore two long and eye can put the error rite.
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased to no.
Its letter perfect awl the way.
My checker told me sew.

The solution is to read through your text, and print it out and get someone else to read it for spelling and grammatical mistakes too: if you start the process anticipating there will be mistakes you probably won’t be disappointed.

Books – The more one reads the greater the likelihood of stumbling across the book that matters to us or that we need to read – whatever our age. I know it is very tempting – and from the best possible motives – to tell people what they should be reading: “On the Road”, “Crime and Punishment”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “The Magus”, “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”, the Flashman books, anything by Patrick Leigh Fermor… see, I haven’t even started and you’ve probably thought of books I should have included. Better to share the titles and authors that give you pleasure, and give encouragement, space and time for reading.

While thinking about this Blog I quizzed a 21 year old on what he thought he should have been reading when he was 18. “Dunno”, he replied, “but I wish when I got to uni I’d had a better knowledge of the Smiths and Quentin Tarrantino films”. A 17 year old I ask wasn’t much interested in what he should be reading – though he did share his joke which made me chuckle: “Reading Festival – literary society disappointed”……


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