It is difficult to begin, so I might as well start somewhere.
Books are beautiful things for a myriad of reasons. You can go ahead and read C.S. Lewis’ (one of my favourite authors) thoughts on it by researching his essay Why Read Great Literature? It discusses how books enable him to live a thousand lives in one. To see through all sorts of eyes and ears. Books are wondrous because they offer a different view according to the author.
Some of the best universes cost less than two bucks. Get out there when you have time and buy a stack of little books from Half-Price Bookstore or Hastings or what-have-you and just keep the books to read every once in a while. I have a number of unread books, and that’s okay, because I’ll read them when I like.
Granted, there is a responsibility that comes when you are in possession of a galaxy. Reading that little astrosphere can be quite a bit of fun, too, so long as you do it. The responsibility comes in prospecting the book, thinking about what it has to offer, inquiring what in the dickens inspired the writer to put that in there. Of course, there are meaningless books of fluff and pansies which Thoreau calls “travel books.” Thoreau also said he grew ashamed of reading them and soon returned to Homer’s Iliad, which he kept open-faced on a table so that he may read anytime. Find the good books out there. If you need suggestions, ask any avid reader what kind of story you’d like to read and they’ll be more than happy to let you in on what worlds they’ve discovered. At least, I’d be happy to.
What else to be said… Ah, yes! The strength of books. If you’ve read Fahrenheit 451, you know what I’m talking about. Books are the harbingers of its author’s ideas and opinions. Even if it’s a storybook, it will have some parallel of what the author is going through, what their ideals are, what change they wish to see in the world. It is nigh impossible to write a pure book, a book without taint of opinion or sully of thought. I say “nigh” because there are authors who can write without feeling or brainpower. Their messengers have nothing to say, however.
Thoreau says something like a written word is more precious than the most sacred of artifacts, or something like that. Written words are precious and enduring. They are passed down through generations upon generations with precision and clarity, even though there is quite a bit of flux and evolution in meanings of words.
It is always better to read a classic in its original tongue. Take the Bible, for instance. We have thousands of ways to translate it, and sometimes, a translator writes a very wrong depiction of it, even though it is technically correct. But if a reader were to look to the original text, they can absorb all of the meanings and have a complete picture of what was meant.
Also, in older books, we see very different language used, even though it might be English or French or what-have-you. The way authors of older generations use words in very different contexts than we would today teaches us also their respect and understanding of the language. Perhaps we learn a new meaning behind a word we thought of as “common” or “base”. This is another reason to enjoy reading.
I can tell you, my understanding of the word “good” has increased phenomenally since I’ve begun reading classics. The word used to be a shallow “alright” word that should be replaced with a more specific and beautiful word. But now, after having read multiple texts on virtue (Especially by Pieper), “good” now means “prudent” and “beautiful” and “worthy” and “true” and “withstanding”. The word “good” will never be used in little, demeaning context ever again in my writing.
That brings up another point: Reading better books makes better writers. Even though the common rule of thumb is “Writers write.” you must also say on your other thumb “Writers read.” If you do not read, you will not grow in your writing skills. For instance, I read The Scarlet Letter once and I role-played online during that time as well. I was no longer typing “I leap across the ledge”, I was typing some crazy stuff such as “I bound across the cliffs, eager to join the battle yonder.” It was astonishing! Even though it might not happen to everyone in this fashion, you WILL see yourself thinking of various ways to say things.
That’s all I have to say for now. For now.
Thanks, you wonderful, patient book-lovers!