B is for Books
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Jane Austen
Throughout my childhood I lived in a world of books - reading them, writing books of short stories for clubs I made with my friends and listening to taped books.
“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.” Tahereh Mafi
This didn’t change when I grew up through my teens and early twenties and I continued to surround myself with books.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” James Baldwin
Move on a few years and as an adult with a young family I somehow forgot about the pleasure I got from reading and always felt that I was ‘too busy’ to read. One day, when thinking about how my time was spent, during a particularly difficult period juggling being taxi driver for my children's various lessons and activities and generally trying to keep on top of housework I realised how much time I wasted waiting outside school or music lessons and realised that I could easily reclaim and hour plus a day to read in the quiet of my car!
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Reading fiction can help our social perception and emotional intelligence by giving us the privilege of exposing us to different viewpoints and the opportunity to see how characters react and the consequences of those actions at a safe distance. In so doing, it influences our ability to relate to others from a different perspective and develops our empathetic skills which helps to make the world a better place. Through fiction, we can experience a whole plethora of life circumstances that are very different from our own as we step in the character’s shoes and experience the world as another age, culture, ethnicity, gender, profession or sexuality.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
I also hold that reading should be a priority because it has many health benefits including creating cognitive engagement which improves thinking skills, vocabulary, and concentration and reading develops our skills of appreciation and wonder as well as helping us to relax.
“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder”
Ralph W Sockman
Words have a very powerful effect. “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Words crystallize perceptions, shape our beliefs, drive our behaviour and ultimately create the world we live in so it is important to reflect on our choice of literature/content.
“You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, and the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, breath of the fresh air, the brightest light and the darkest corner. You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and the colours fill your mind until there is nothing left to do but explode. There are no wrong answers. Inspiration is everything. Sit back, relax, and take it all in.” Jac Vanek
Words are stronger than guns and bullets as they make it possible to spread ideas and concepts that can contribute to the destruction of a country or help it to transform itself. With technology we have even more access to information but this doesn’t always make our life easier with ‘fake news’ and biased reporting the norm.
Repetition is the most powerful tool to imprint something into our minds and retain it. This is of particular concern when we consider a phenomenon called the Illusion of Truth Effect. It basically proves that any statement we read, see, or speak regularly is seen as more valid than one we’re exposed to only occasionally which is why it is so important to actively question what we read in the papers, on the internet etc
I have been fortunate to read so many books and have had some really excellent recommendations from all sorts of people; not only friends and family but also 'random people' I have met in all walks of life including people I engaged in conversation with on the ferry or met once via mutual friends.
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
We can read books more than once and see different things in them because as we mature and grow our experiences expand and then we recognise more things
“You can get lost in any library, no matter the size. But the more lost you are, the more things you’ll find.” Millie Florence
I can’t explain why I love books or the feeling I get every time I see books for sale, books at a friend’s place or in library but I think that it is something to do with the hope that an elusive thought or answer or perspective might just be in one and make life a little bit clearer or perhaps I will find a turn of phrase that helps me find the right words to express myself or clarify a pervasive, elusive thought
“Reality doesn’t always give us the life that we desire, but we can always find what we desire between the pages of books.” Adelise M. Cullens
Stories are also a refuge, a safe space, a world that you can lose yourself in and have a mental break from responsibility and be childlike again.
“I love the sound of the pages flicking against my fingers. Print against fingerprints. Books make people quiet, yet they are so loud.” Nnedi Okorafor
Over the last few years I have also increasingly read non-fiction – focusing on self-help, self-improvement, healthy living, mental health, books about the function of the brain etc
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” Rabindranath Tagore
I have been gradually gathering together a list of books that have made an impression on me or ‘must-reads’ and invite everyone to browse the list and make contributions of their own via this direct link:
What have YOU read recently that has inspired you or given you a different perspective to reflect upon? Why not email a book suggestion/review directly to:
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add as a guest post
“Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities.” Ben Okri