If there is an activity in that can keep me hooked for hours, it’s reading.
Books evokes different emotions from different people depending on their relationship with them.
For me reading is like meditation. It fills me with positive energy and a certain calmness.
Books have a way of invading one’s core and influencing the thoughts and ideas.
Would it be too poetic if I say that reading as a habit is something akin to a master craftsman working on a block of wood or stone? And with each book you read, small yet significant changes begin to happen in your personality.
But it’s true.
Books influence us. We imbibe something from each of them.
Cultivating Empathy and Understanding
Reading is a transformative journey. It exposes the reader to a kaleidoscope of ideas and worldviews.
People we never met, thoughts we never explored, ideas we never encouraged, cultures we never experienced, all given a new life. The life experiences of the well-sketched characters become a part of our journey, teaching us well-meaning lessons.
I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee when at school and it was my first exposure to racism, a concept totally alien to me till then. After that I have read the book several times over the years, and every time I have learned something new; be it about the life in small towns of then America, or to fight for what you believe in or the intricate webs of the legal systems.
Another book that left a deep imprint on me was “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I had read many books on World War II, but this made me take a relook at that world. About the normal German people living in Germany, their struggles and beliefs, and how humanity fought for its survival.
But what was most notable about this book was the narrator – Death itself. Some of the lines by Death are so profound.
“The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. (Death)”.
I cried for Rudy; carried the dull ache of losing someone dear for days after finishing the book.
I felt sorry for Anne (“The Diary of Anne Frank“), for growing up within the confines of that small house when she should be basking in the spring of her youth.
I rejoiced when each of the March sisters from “Little Women” conquered their ‘burden’ and moved on.
That’s what books can do – create a sense of empathy and emotional connection.
Building Resilience and Perseverance
A life source of inspiration and motivation.
With every new book you read, you are bound to discover your new role models, someone who inspires you to keep at it. Their goals made be different, their paths diverse, their methods personal, but they inspire you to move out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
The struggles of Santiago from “The Alchemist” (by Paulo Coelho) are very different from what Cheryl Strayed (from “Wild”) went through. Yet both inspired many to not give up on their dreams, to be resilient, to chase their dreams with focus.
Not much of a sci-fi fan, I was coaxed to read “The Martian” by Andy Weir. It was then difficult to keep the book down (though I skimmed through the science bits). Mark Watney became my new role model. His sheer determination, resourcefulness and optimism got him through difficult and unimaginable times.
If they can do it, so can we. That’s the underlying message in each of those books.
Expanding Knowledge and Critical Thinking
Sometimes it just not the multi-layered characters inhabiting the worlds between the pages that reach out to us.
There are stories that leave you raw and vulnerable, which touch the deepest recesses of your mind and heart, which make you rethink about everything.
Books like “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari force you to look at mankind from a totally different and fresh perspective.
“Homo sapiens rule the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exists purely in its own imagination, such as gods, states, money and human rights.”
The book is based on a provocative idea and forces us to take a step back to think. Needed more than one reading to be able to fully appreciate the meaning.
Another book “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking creates a similar ripple. It breaks down the big scientific theories into easy to understand bits for the layman.
Books like these help to broaden our horizons by introducing new ideas and concepts. They force you to come out of your comfort zone and question the world we live in.
Of course we also have books like Sherlock Holmes and Poirot which not only provided entertainment but also encourage critical thinking. They explored the intricacies of the human mind and it’s infinite capabilities for both good and evil.
Developing Moral and Ethical Values
Have you read “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini?
What questions arose in your mind when you read about what happens to Hassan?
Did you agree with Amir, his course of action?
What do you think you would have done in his place?
Would the story have had a different ending if Amir had intervened?
Books like this (or “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky) force you to question your own morals and values, question the ways of the world. What’s right and for whom?
Even in “To Kill a Mockingbird“, the innocent questions by the children often deserve a heavier response, a greater introspection, than what the father was in the position to give.
These books shake your core beliefs. And that is important if we are to remain alive as a society.
Till the time the people living in the society ask questions, the society survives; or else it fades into oblivion or descends into chaos.
Like I was saying,
I’ve my own personal list of books divided into categories of my choice – read again books, quick read books, comfort reading books, special passages. And each of the categories has an eclectic collection of its own. But they’re there for me whenever I need them.
If Sherlock Holmes introduced me to the Victorian ages, then Andy Weir got me to read sci-fi; if “Sapiens” is on my all-time favs then Harry Potter fights for its fair share of attention. There’s so much that I’ve learnt from each of these books, each one leaving an indelible impression on me. These books have become a part of who I am.
What about you?
(p.s. in case you want to read any of the books mentioned above, you can use the links given. I’ll get a piddly commission, at no extra cost to you. So go ahead, get your copy today).