The Ageless Rewards of Reading

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I grew up surrounded with books and with reading as a favorite pastime for my siblings and me, all children of the pre-gadget era. The books we had, ranged anywhere from the world classics, sci-fi, and self-help to the extensive collection of children’s literature by various local and international authors. Some old, some new, all books were kept in a great shape, except for the two hard backs that stood out with their excessively browned pages and battered covers. These were two volumes of children’s short story collections – one in a dark blue, one in a brown cover – serialized under a shared title of “A Story after Story”. We read and reread these stories, making sure to keep the volumes from falling apart.

These books were from my Mom’s childhood and she said she had loved them just as much as we did. I once asked why these two didn’t fare so well compared to many others. Mom told me the story behind these two volumes, survivors of a fire, and not an accidental household fire but the menacing flames of a “Fahrenheit 451” worthy occasion.

Turned out, these books originally belonged to my Mom’s next door neighbor kids when they were all growing up. At the end of each school year, the neighbors’ mother would build a big bonfire outside of their home to burn all of the paper products their kids had accumulated, including any books found in the house.  My Mom and her sister (my aunt) found this too painful to watch. Many times they attempted to stop those book burning ceremonies to no avail, only to summon the woman’s wrath upon themselves. One time, armed with yard sticks the two sisters snuck up on the “incineration place” and managed to fish out one book each before they would be caught. That was how “A Story after Story” set ended up on our book shelves.

Decades passed since then. Fortunately, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian future hasn’t come true despite the threat to brick and mortar book stores posed by the electronic revolution. Also, with Google and Siri at their fingertips with ready answers to any questions people, in general, tend to turn to books less and less frequently.

Whether with the help of electronic devices or on paper, the benefits of reading are truly endless. Among those benefits are: expanding your knowledge base on many subjects, raising the quality of your conversations and staying on top of the game in your own industry by learning on the latest and greatest developments from reputable sources. Once I interviewed a prominent Azerbaijani novelist who shared that parents of adolescents often asked for his best advice on what aspiring writers should do in order to master the art and craft of writing. His only recommendation was to read as much as possible, because reading good books dramatically expands your vocabulary, improves your writing skills and stimulates your creative imagination.

From my personal experience, I want to add that if English is not your first language, listening to audio books on a regular basis will improve your pronunciation as well. As a part of your personal growth journey – books will feed your mind and spirit which will make it easy for you to form your own opinion on a variety of subjects instead of relying on what others want you to believe.

Don’t say you don’t have the time to read. There are always ways to make the time for something this beneficial. Do what I do – listen to audio books in your car on your commute to work or anywhere else. Do what a college student I recently met named Matt does – use apps such as Reedy that teach speed reading. Or do what my friend Allie of Simply Styled and Organized does – carry a book with you in case if you end up with an unexpected pocket of time at any point in your day. This way you will be surprised to see how much more reading you can actually fit into your day.

And, most importantly, whatever the future brings, you can be sure you won’t end up like the people from the futuristic American city  – brainwashed on excessive TV watching and radio listening- who could never think for themselves or hold a meaningful conversation.

Share what kind of books you like to read and how you make time for them.

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15 Comments

  1. One of my favorite things about reading novels is that I can use my imagination to create my vision of each character, landscape, environment, etc. When you watch a movie all of those decisions have been made for you to watch on the screen but with a book, you are free to interpret from the author’s description exactly how you would see and feel the story as it unfolds. It allows us to explore and experience places in our mind where no-one else can go. That is one of the many special gifts that reading provides.

    1. Jason, thank you for sharing about this wonderful additional gift of reading that I didn’t think to mention. This is so true! Besides, many movies based on books, don’t come anywhere near the original with the amount of detail in the plot and the back story.

  2. There’s an old sayings in Chinese, when you have read ten thousands books, you are a divine writer. Well in the old days of China, the total number of books might be ten thousands and one.
    Last week before my eye surgery, I went down to Bellingham, I spent a couple of hours inside Barn and Noble, ended up buying the first book I picked up and read it at the bookstore Starbucks coffee shop. The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies.
    I am always curious about cutting-edge technology and admire some writers can write it in layman’s terms. So here I go.

    1. Hello Rupert, it’s so great to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing with us the ancient wisdom of Chinese people! Wow! 10,000 books! So that’s the secret to becoming a divine writer. I wish I kept track of how many I read so far so that it give me an idea of how far along I’m in my journey :). I definitely have to check out the author you are sharing with us about. Would love to hear more from you in the future!

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