Scott’s Thoughts: Solace on the Page

Woman reading a book on a dock.If the internet’s distractions and the torrent of world events leave you feeling unsteady, anxious, or filled with rage, now might be the perfect time to find solace on the pages of a book. A dive into the pages of a book is precisely the type of mental and emotional nourishment we’re hungry for when the world inundates us with a junk food diet of video and social media.

What’s more, books provide us with condensed experience. We learn from the mistakes of others. We are held in awe by the accomplishments of others. We are inspired and guided by the true and imaginative narratives of other peoples’ lives. Nothing is as efficient as a book for helping us learn from history and empathize with experiences outside of our own sphere. (There’s an interesting interview with President Obama on this subject in this week’s New York Times.)

If you’re in a reading rut, or feel you “should read more often,” I offer the following suggestions to enrich your reading and find respite from life’s noise:

1. Read fiction: Don’t assume “true stories” are the only source of value. Sometimes art contains greater truths– especially those concerned with the nuances of human emotions. (Also: While your paperback thriller might be a lot of fun, it can omit the useful complexities of the human experience. Check out literary fiction, too, including those books you skipped in high school!)

2. Read against your opinions and tastes: Stretch yourself. Read things you think you might not like or that you might disagree with. Read biographies of someone whose politics are different than your own. Try subjects which might sound boring at first. What you find out might surprise you.

3. Read out of curiosity: Don’t let what you “should” be reading color what you’re curious about reading. Scratch the itch. Pick a subject that intimidates you and find a good introduction to the topic. (Oxford’s “Very Short Introductions” series is a fantastic place to begin.)

4. Read unselfconsciously: Afraid to be seen reading that trashy romance novel on the plane? Don’t be! The best readers read widely. Read high and low, far and wide. Use a Kindle if you’d rather not have prying eyes judging the cover of your choice.

5. Read habitually: Set time aside to read. Read in the morning. Keep a book with you at all times. Exchange TV time for reading time. )After all, books don’t have commercials.) Keep a reading journal. Chart your progress. You’d be surprised how much a little here and there can add up.

We should always be able to answer the question: “What’s the best book you’ve read this month?”

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