Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Few people fully appreciate the magic of reading a good book.

I'm not talking about e-readers or audible books. I mean the old-fashioned, enriching experience of holding an honest-to-goodness book in your hands and viewing the pages with your eyes.

No doubt there is benefit from listening to an audible book. It's better than listening to other people whine about life. But the sound of a droning voice in your ears is hardly stimulating. Most of us can recall being at a lecture or in a class where the sound of a voice alone was enough to put the entire audience to sleep. One of the television ads expounding the benefits of audible books suggests listening to the latest book while working out or running errands. I personally would prefer listening to music.

I always enjoyed books but was not as enthused about the process as some. Books reminded me too much of classroom requirements. I relished exposure to such literature as Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage and Lord of the Flies when it occurred in school, but the thought of picking up one of these books for recreation did not occur.

In college, I delved into literature on a different level, falling for the great Russian writers and the Romantics. Reading and analyzing what Dostoyevsky meant in The Idiot took introspection. But free time was taken up with trying to finish my degree and prove myself a worthy young housewife. Evenings in the 1970s were spent with the television, not curled up with Tolstoy.

And so life rolled on busily. It wasn't until I lived in Washington, D.C. and had to endure long daily commutes that I rediscovered reading as a supplement to life. In cities where people ride public transportation and have time to fill, reading is valued. I recently read that people in cities like Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. are the most literate folks in the country. It's because they are trapped in some type of conveyance and must find something to do. The same does not apply to large cities where commuters rely on driving, of course.

Recently I found myself in an undeniable funk, brought on by several difficult experiences combined with the winter doldrums. I turned to my stack of unread books and found comfort among the pages there. A long-time reading advocate, I often attend library sales and used book stores, purchasing books which appeal to me. They are at the ready when time allows. Books are often found at yard sales or, of course, at libraries, so be on the lookout. Keep a library card. You never know when it might come in handy.

Yesterday I finished reading Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey. Written ten years before his death, Brando weaves a fascinating story about his Hollywood career and life in general. Following Brando's stories of working in film, living in Tahiti and the aftermath of a dismal childhood helped me forget my troubles as I became immersed in his words. Good writers can do this. Once they've hooked your interest, readers tend to become entwined in the printed word.

Next time you feel tense or troubled, consider picking up a book. It just might help.

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