Reading maketh a full (wo)man

🙂By Susu Jabbeh on 2013-02-28 13:03:56 Reading maketh a full man”“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”“I find television...

By Susu Jabbeh on 2013-02-28 13:03:56
Reading maketh a full man”
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Is reading dying? I sincerely hope not. Humans read much more now than they did 50 years ago- we sit in front of a computer all day long and read- we read emails, we read tweets, we read text messages of various kinds, we read facebook posts, we read the news online, we even read books online, but how often do we pick up a good old fashioned book and read it?

Online reading is short attention span reading, whereas picking up a book would be long attention span reading and the joy of long attention span reading has been captured eloquently in some of the quotes above. Can you see yourself waxing eloquent about a text message or a tweet? I have always loved reading and that love has stayed with me, although I have to confess that I spend inordinate amounts of time in front of the computer indulging in short attention span reading these days. Despite all the distractions offered by the computer and the ease of carrying thousands of books on Kindle, I still favour old-fashioned book reading- it brings me joy like no other. I always have about 4-5 books lying by my bedside and read a minimum of 25-50 pages from a book every single day.

As parents, it is our duty to teach our children the joys of reading- it is especially challenging in this day and age as the youth have so many distractions vying for their attention that they have hardly any time to indulge in this most edifying of habits. As a parent, I have tried to teach my girls the joy of reading- when they were younger, I used to read to them nightly- it was not only a bonding ritual, it seeded in them a love of reading; it seems to have helped as they read a fair bit, given the number of distractions around them.

Bookish people like me are, indisputably, a minority, these days, but reading is still very much alive. Clichéd though it may sound, the truth is, of all habits, reading books is still one of the best. Reading lights up your world, broadens your horizons, enlightens, entertains and edifies, and makes you wiser (perhaps). The joy of entering the world created by Enid Blyton, the world of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys in my childhood; the world of Erle Stanley Gardener, Agatha Christie and JRR Tolkein in my adolescence; the joy of reading and re-reading Jane Austen and her views on love and marriage, the joy of reading and re-reading ‘To kill a mockingbird’ and ‘A catcher in the Rye’ (and knowing that the authors would never write another book, which made the experience all the more special), the joy of discovering Rushdie and his magical realism in my college days- these are joys I cannot describe-they are almost spiritual in nature! And when my girls introduced me to Harry Potter and his world in the year 2000, I loved wallowing in the alternate reality created by those wonderfully imagined, magical tomes. Apart from enlightening and entertaining me, books have also given me knowledge and ideas that have equipped me with an observational capacity and deeper insight into how the world works and have made me a more tolerant person.

I am now part of a book club that meets once in a month to discuss a chosen book- we have read books as varied as Donna Tartt’s ‘A secret history’, Li Cunxin’s ‘Mao’s last dancer’, Jeffrey Euginides’ ‘Middlesex’, J K Rowling’s (writing as Robert Galbraith) ‘Cuckoo’s calling’ and so on. I rarely go anywhere without a book (and have often left books behind on planes, at the hairdresser’s or at a chemist and even at the bus stop and have rushed back to claim them!) or my IPad so I always have reading material at hand. Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Euginides are American authors I have read in the recent past; so also Canadian author Margaret Atwood; I even got a copy of the banned book ‘Satanic Verses’ by my favourite Rushdie a little while ago and tried reading it, though I have to confess I have not managed to finish the book. Yet another book that I began reading in all earnestness is ‘Infinite Jest’, by David Foster Wallace- the book (a huge tome that runs to 1000 pages) still sits by my bedside, half-read. I intend to finish it, someday, but what I have realised is that big is not necessarily better. I am still ambitious- I hope to read Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize winning ‘The Luminaries’ and Donna Tartt’s latest, The Goldfinch’, both of which run close to 800 pages.
It does not matter what the length of the book is- what matters is the joy of traveling to strange worlds, the joy of written words strung together to create magic.

Parents and children, I know there are many wonderful things to see and do in the world today and picking up an old fashioned book might seem boring, but I request (beseech, entreat, pester even) you to try and find time in your busy schedules, amidst your other online and offline activities to indulge in this wonderful hobby, albeit old-fashioned, quaint, yet joyous like no other! It is worth repeating- it indeed is the most entertaining, enlightening and edifying of hobbies.

Renuka Vaidyanathan, an erstwhile finance professional, opted out of the corporate rat race and now likes to think that she wears many interesting hats. She is an events’ organiser in the cultural space and also writes every now and then about people, places and events. She is an avid advocate of ‘green living’ and dabbles in some sitar-playing as well, albeit as an amateur.
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