Thursday, 25 October 2012

For the Love of Reading

The man who won’t read has no advantage over the man who can’t. –Mark Twain

I’ve always been a reader. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life. I read mostly nonfiction, but the genre honestly doesn’t matter that much to me. Fiction, nonfiction, technical manuals, magazine articles, blogs—if it’s out there, I’ll read it. Aside from the occasional fix at the office supply store (Damn you Office Max and your awesome supply of notebooks!), there’s no place I’d rather be than in a library. If "used book store" was a perfume, I'd wear it.

The written word can travel to every corner of the earth and more importantly, through time. There’s a special place in my heart for biographies, because it’s like interviewing the past. I may not be able to sit down for a day with the great thinkers of history, but I can still learn from their experiences. To quote Socrates: "Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for." I’m enough of a slacker to appreciate that idea.

I think that's why this article bothered me so much. The authors are proud to report that 8 in 10 Americans under the age of 30 have read a book in the last year, as compared to 7 in 10 of adults in general. I can't imagine not reading a single book in the last year. Hell, I can't imagine not reading a single book in the last week. It's such an important part of my life that I want to share it with everyone. I feel like an evangelical reader--I want to share the good news and save souls through books.

Words written centuries ago can reach through time and etch themselves in my mind. They can make me smile, or cry. They can change my opinions, expand my thinking to encompass another point of view, and educate me. I’ve traveled further and more intensely through a good book than by physically standing on another continent.

I can see the world through my own eyes, and by reading, see the same world from a completely different perspective. By opening myself up to a different way of thinking, even if it’s not one I agree with, I have instantly broadened my understanding.

For me, a good book is one that I finish with sigh. By reading it, I have affected my mind and grown as a person. Every now and then, I find a book I can get lost in. I care about the characters as though I personally know them, and when I finally look up from the pages, I’m startled to discover that hours have passed. That is the mark of great book.

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