As delivered at BBC Radio Bristol this morning:
Today is World Book Day. Right now you may be helping a child to attend school dressed as a favourite character from a book.
I love books. I almost never go anywhere without one in case there will be an unexpected wait.
An English teacher, Mr Parry, once picked on me to tell the class what I was currently reading. I remember, with some embarrassment because I was a happy reader, the mind-blank moment I had.
He championed teaching by sarcasm. 'When a book and a head collide and there is a hollow sound,' he said, 'it is not always the book's fault.' Ouch. In those days you could hit your pupils over the head with a book.
Ever since I have recorded the titles of books I have finished. Just in case Mr Parry pops up again, I guess.
Writing is time-travel. My writing in one place and time becomes your reading in another. What a luxury.
When printing first came along communities had very few people who could read. Priests were often the best-educated members of their village or town.
As a vicar I am no longer in such a position. Indeed, if I preach something people find distasteful it won't be long before they have searched online for six other sermons on the same subject. The internet has changed preachers from dogmatists to gentle guides. Jolly good too.
My key text in my work, the Bible, is not one book but sixty-six, by at least forty different authors and editors. It still tops publishers' lists yet may well be the world's best-owned, least read book. Here's a thought for World Book Day. Have another look at the greatest story ever told. It changed my life.