“We might as well to omit to study Nature because she is old. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise and one that will task the reader more than any exercises which the customs of the day esteem.”
Henry David Thoreau
I love to read. It is my favorite pastime, and has been since I learned the art. As a rather ornery and stubborn child suffering from youngest child syndrome, I could not have been a joy to teach. It took me longer to learn to read than most children…all right, I was a bit delayed. My three older sisters would sit me down on the coach to read the “Bob Books,” whereupon I would recite the book from cover to cover verbatim—albeit often be on the incorrect page.
Once I learned to read, however, I could not be stopped. I went from not understanding three word Bob Books to being grounded from reading because I would sneak away and hide with stacks of books for hours (yes, I was/am that nerdy…who gets grounded from reading!?). As a ten year old, I’d gone through all the “kid” books in our house and would read my father’s thick adventure paperbacks, written by Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Tom Clancy and the like. He marked the corners down on pages I wasn’t allowed to read because of “mature” content.
I’ve gone everywhere in the pages of books. I’ve learned facts and encountered cultures, I’ve awakened to different aspects of myself and had amazing revelations—all because I picked up a stack of bound paper that was marked with ink and sat down to read. There are few things I relish more than a good, unread book, and I am the better for it.
Thoreau believed that nearly every problem we face is a common one to mankind, and that the ancients had pondered those problems and written about them, that the “at present unutterable things we may find somewhere uttered.” He was shocked, disgusted, that most of his contemporaries did not read past a very elementary level. They learned to read in order to conduct business and know the news, rather than to muse over another’s wisdom and discover insights about themselves and their circumstances.
While I don’t only venerate the classics as he did, much of what Thoreau wrote a hundred and fifty years ago still applies…we as a culture do not appreciate reading as we ought. We flip through magazines and skim news sites, always, always reading but never reading. If you believe statistics, 1/3 of people who graduate from high school won’t ever read another book. What!? That is ludicrous! We could do little better for our school system than to teach our children to love the written word. If we are to believe those statistics, the average American watches 4 hours of television a day. That translates to 2 months a year. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to read…
Television deadens the mind; reading engages it. Why cease learning when we cease formal education? Find an author or genre or trilogy that stirs something insatiable within you, and devote time from your life to read! You shan’t be disappointed.