|There are far worse ways to spend eternity!|
Why I Love to Read
I love to read. I take every opportunity to read. I do not differentiate between novels, non-fiction books, magazines, comic books, pamphlets, E-Books, etc. They are all just different means by which I absorb the written text. I feel that the ability to read intelligently is the most critical skill a human can develop. It affects every single other aspect of your life for the entirety of your life. I have seen both children and people well into their 40’s develop a love of reading. Each one was a better person for it.
I do not remember not being able to read. As my family tells it, I was read to a lot as a child (critically important!) and by the age of 3 years I was reading along in my native Spanish. My mother tells me that she knew I could read all by myself when I started trying to teach my younger brother how to read. That was sometime before turning 4. As a young child I would try to read anything that came my way, whether it was a Sears catalog, children’s books from the church library, or books off the shelves of my parent’s friends’ homes when we would all visit.
There was nothing more wonderful to me than showing up with my parents to a dinner party or a function of some sort, the kind where the kids need to keep themselves busy off in a corner while the adults do their thing, and finding a huge stack of National Geographic or Smithsonian magazines. Those were my favorites! I could be lost in the world at large, traveling in my mind, all while laying on someone’s living room carpet waiting for my parents. If there were no magazines I would browse through the bookshelves. Nearly everyone has some books on a shelf in their home, even if they do not really read often. This often helped me avoid boredom.
One of my earliest memories involves the visits to our pediatrician in Puerto Rico. As children need to go see the doctor quite regularly, I became very familiar with the books and magazines available at my doctor’s waiting room. He was an older man, very nice, and always had the comic book-like Illustrated Bible books. I would read those books front to back, as well as anything else I could find. They were the best part of going to the doctor! To this day I find myself reading magazines in doctor offices that I would never buy for myself, such as Texas Monthly, American Rifleman, Golf Digest, etc. I get upset when the nurses call me in while I am in the middle of a great article on the waterfowl of North Texas lakes, or the benefits of carbon-fiber golf club shafts. I read nearly everything.
As a school-age kid, I devoured books from the school library. I was the kid that preferred to scarf his lunch and spend the rest of the lunch-hour reading in the library. For a whole month in 8th grade I spent lunchtime reading an unabridged dictionary! Yes. I am sick. I have read whole volumes of encyclopedias. I have read Atlases. In high school I would run from my 7th period classroom to the Library, check out Reference books, which had to be returned the very next morning before 1st period, and take them home to read after dinner. During weekends or school vacations I would stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 AM reading in my bed. I would stop and put down my book when it was near-impossible to keep my eyes open any longer. I miss those times. These days, as a responsible adult, I find I can push my nighttime reading until around 11:00 PM before I have to go to sleep or else I am ruined at work the next day.
There are a lot of things I love in life. I am a music fanatic. I collect records. I love to look at art and draw and paint. I love to eat new foods and try new restaurants. I love to spend time with my wife and dogs. I love to follow my favorite sports and teams. While I love all these things, I have always known that everything could be taken away from me and I would still be content if I have the ability and means to read. Even if I were to go blind, I would learn Braille and continue reading. My mind is a never-filling container for the knowledge and stories that humans have written down.
One of the greatest joys in reading is the ability it gives you to explore not only the world around you, but the world as it has been before, cultures long-since dead, ideas long forgotten, even the possibilities of the future to come. Nothing else in life affords this. Nothing else in life so greatly supplements every other aspect of being alive. Do you love to cook? Books can show you foods you never imagined you could make yourself and enjoy. Do you love to hear classical music? Books can help you understand the intricacies of the music making process, the life and times of the composers you enjoy, the meaning behind certain works, the source materials used by the composers, and the actual experience of the folks who heard these compositions for the first time hundreds of years ago. Reading provides exponential experience.
Reading is a process and a skill. Like all skills, it is perfected over time through practice and study. Learning new things, and making new connections to old lessons and knowledge, helps my brain stay sane. It helps me to understand myself and the world around me. It helps me to understand just how much I do NOT know. Language may be the single greatest invention of humanity, but the written word, the ability to transmit information and stories and lessons in text without the need for oral dissemination, has allowed humanity to prosper and grow in ways that we have yet to fully understand. It is a close second indeed. I will read until they pry the books from my cold, dead hands.