I meet some people from all walks of life who give reading a book the same disregard and anguish as they would to the thought of crossing the Sahara Desert with no food or water.
Reading is far more than just a ‘boring pastime’ — as a young fellow once pointed out: it’s a way to stimulate brain cells and to improve our vocabulary. I dread the thought of having to meet someone for a drink and – five minutes into the conversation – be limited to the boundary of ‘So, where do you go clubbing?’ topic. Possibly a valid one, sure – however, I value my life to be more meaningful and fulfilling than knowing about someone’s weekend performances on a dance floor.
Reading helps also towards writing sentences that are hopefully spelling and grammatically correct, and to avoid amusing misunderstandings. Such as a profile I read on a dating website, where the user is “good-looking, with over-abundance of muscles, ‘decease’ free searching for ‘other guys also decease free’”. There I was, pondering about our mortality and of someone aiming to begin a love affair with immortal beings only.
I’m quite sure he meant he doesn’t want to encounter anybody infected with HIV+ or STDs, considering that the Oxford dictionary still lists them as diseases; but one never really knows what unattainable desires harbour in people’s hearts.
That said, I’m perfectly convinced I’m making atrocious mistakes in my own writing, but I take shelter under the excuse of English being my second language (it however brings back painful memories of my childhood teacher hitting my knuckles with a ruler any time I messed up — but this will be for another story.)
Another man writes he ‘is not in the reading phase of his life’. When would that phase begin, pray tell?
I am certainly not saying that we should all read Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, or recite War and Peace by heart, to qualify as effective ‘readers’ — although it would help, merely for the cultural aspect of it.
Some people may argue, ‘I don’t have time to read!’. Sure, between work, gym, travelling, meeting friends, sex, pilates and yoga, and whatever else, the idea of opening a book seems to be a task of mammoth proportions. Break it down, then: read a short story, something that begins and ends within a few pages. Suggestions I can give could be a collection of short narrative I’m fond of: “Family Dancing” by David Leavitt. Like many of Leavitt’s subsequent books, ‘’Family Dancing’’ tells stories of people coming to terms with their own identity and capture the essence of family relationships, and of subtle dramas in everyday life.
Or, while a bit more wordy, “A Haunted House, and other short stories”, by Virginia Woolf.
I am no literature authority, so feel free to agree or disagree with me.
The point I’m trying to make is that, cultural enrichment aside, reading is an enticing private and personal experience. When I read I retreat to my own world, reality disappears, words come alive and my imagination turns into a 3D Blue-ray stereo-surround movie. If a book can provide you with such feeling don’t put it down; lose yourself into it instead. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a JK Rowling or a Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or, if you keep reading the same first page for the tenth time — it happened to me many times — maybe that’s not the right book: it might be you not understanding, or it might be the author that can’t grab the reader’s attention. Then choose something else — life is too short for a badly-written book — and pick something else you’re keen on exploring. I recently read a delightful novel: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s the story of a biographer hired by a famous novelist to write her biography. It’s an engrossing dark gothic suspence piece of fiction.
What I’m saying is that by reading anything – from a newspaper to a comic book to a novel – we improve our chances of social and business skills; as well as finding and keeping that long-term relationships — either a romantic or platonic ones — that many of us seek and cherish.
[This post is a revised version of an article I published time ago on Triangle Project newsletter]
Cheers, and keep being fantastic!