A huge small thing like reading …


Today we may think that “reading” is different, even opposed to, using social media. “Social media” is not the focus here! I’m referring to “reading-reading”, reading a book, mainly — a very old-fashioned idea!

The best reason for reading, in general, is that it’s pleasurable. It’s calming; it feels good.

It can be exciting, with a novel, stimulating and informative in many ways: not just the facts, ma’am, but providing insights into various public personalities, histories, and an over-view of whatever it is that has pulled our curiosity into a particular book. Reading is rewarding in all those ways and it’s a bit like eating, in providing us nourishment.

Reading can be long-term stimulating, unlike digital media which whizz through subject after subject, leaving us with hardly an after-taste of any “nourishment”, let alone any long-lasting knowledge. This may not budge a pre-teen off his phone — or a seven-year-old off his comic books (my case).

Personally, I like to visit, sitting opposite a friend’s bookshelves (or windows).

They’re similar — the shelves giving us a view of our hosts’ interests and ambitions. We see their big-format artists’ books, from days long ago when someone in the house had an interest being a painter or musician.

Others ask, “Why keep all these books once you’ve read them? Will you really read them again?” … which is a logical point. In my occupation, referring to quotations or assertions by others is helpful, but this hardly applies to many novels.

Sitting in front of a friend’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, I can pick out a few books I’d have no future use for … and I wonder how many of these hundreds of books he has actually read? I realize the un-read ones have a purpose, besides being lined up for future reading. One fellow can tell me the year in which he read most of them, which I find remarkable; he can plot his life out across his bookshelves. That’s a unique set of records, especially useful as one ages.

And of all the books he has read, I now know that anyone can ask him about these subjects and get a somewhat-informative answer. Anyone could borrow one, too. The conversation born out of one of these questions could last all evening and make a supper all the more enjoyable. Books are another insight into the makeup of our friends.

A wall of books also gives us further fuel for reflection: all that we have before us is information — about ourselves. The bookshelves are a mirror, of sorts, reflecting not only the owner of the books, but also about ourselves, standing opposite, reading the titles. But I’d say that most beneficial of all is the stimulation these titles give us …. to read more, to inquire, to follow our curiosity’s bent. Books are another way of giving ourselves a little mental energy, a nudge to follow our curiosity further.

None of this is in opposition to social media, but it surely amplifies and “densifies” the quick information we can get digitally. There is no conflict between “reading” and watching our social media screens, but there is a real shame to rely only on social media just because it’s fast and convenient. Or because, in many cases, we’re actually too rushed to sit down and crack open a book!

Homes in which nothing more than social media is used for any sort of reference … these homes feel a little empty. Especially homes with school kids. Facing our shaky and complex world, we need every ounce of brain power we can access. Our democracy needs better quality participation from us all.

Our education levels need to rise to keep democracy working, and all this begins at home. Now we learn there are newer Covid variants on the way, which means more home-time. This is not all bad news, staying at home!

Stay home and read. Take care of yourself — and give your mind and heart a break.

Stay home and read to your kids … or to anyone confined to bed.

Stay home … and learn something entirely new.