Scott’s Thoughts: Why 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, or who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin, (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987), American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

A stack of diverse books.

Though the internet provides us with many distractions, books offer us a rare opportunity to practice sustained concentration and a deeper thought. Instead of skating across the surface of the perpetual news cycle, a dive into the pages of a book is precisely the type of mental nutrition we’re hungry for when the world offers us a steady “fast 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 realize our pain is not ours alone. We are inspired and guided by the true and imaginative narratives of other people’s’ lives. Nothing is as efficient as a book for helping us learn from history and empathize with experiences outside of our own sphere.

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

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.

2. Read against your tastes: Stretch yourself. Read things you think you might not like or that you might disagree with. Read 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.

4. Read unselfconsciously. Afraid to be seen reading that self-help book on the plane? Don’t be! The best readers read widely. Read high and low, far and wide. That includes those “For Dummies” books with the yellow and black covers. There’s no shame in being a novice!

5. Read habitually. Set time aside to read. Read in the morning. Keep a book with you at all times. Stuck at the DMV? Congratulations, you’ve just hit a great reading opportunity. 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.

What are you reading these days? What was the last book you loved? I’d like to know. My list of books to read is always growing.


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