I’ve been asked by a lot of my friends/family on how and why I read so much, on what I intend to gain from reading those books, be it Agatha Christie or Ayn Rand, Robert Ludlum or, very recently, Haruki Murakami. I never gave a proper answer, ended the conversation with a ‘they just keep me from getting bored’. But when I pause and think about why I love books (in general) and love some books enough to re-read them, I think the answer is pretty different. Yes, they do keep me from getting bored, but why? The TV would keep me from getting bored too, so why books? Two word answer – intellectual stimulation.
We are constantly looking out for things (materialistic or otherwise) to improve our existence, our life. Anything we do will point towards that one tenet. That particular characteristic comes bundled up with the human DNA – the quest for improvement. One can find that in many different ways – some find it by travelling places, some find it in their kitchens and some, like me, happen to find it in books. Well, if not all, at least a very large part, in books.
I, for one, find immense pleasure when I discover books and authors. When I picked up Fountainhead, I had no idea it was a big-deal-book, had never heard of Ayn Rand before that and hadn’t even read anything beyond Sidney Sheldon or Jeffery Archer! I’ve read it thrice (cover to cover) till date and still haven’t got enough of it. If anything, it’s only made me to want to read it all over again. I’ve spent hours pouring over Rand’s essays on Objectivity, trying to assimilate the theories she puts forth with so much conviction. It affects you in a big way. Words, their articulation, the meanings – hidden and otherwise and above all, the ideas that the author conveys to you which in turn, makes you think. Intellectual stimulation.
There was a point when I read only to pass time. Over the years, my choices and my reasons have grown with me in maturity. There used to be a time when I could finish a 500 page novel in a day flat. You don’t need to ‘think’ when you read a Sheldon or an Agatha Christie (IMHO, ofcourse). But it’s not easy to do that to a Murakami or a Kafka tome. It’s pure foolishness to do that! Because some authors are a thinker’s author. You take time with their words and ideas. You let it sink in and you coax your mind to think further, like the author intended you to and go a step further and see for yourself if that particular thought would help you make your life better, even in a small way. Therein lies the beauty of the written word. Therein lies intellectual stimulation.
Books bring understanding. This life, in all its complexity, has been lived by many and will be lived by many more. My experiences in life are different from yours. But the underlying emotions are all the same – love, success, failure, disappointment, respect, humor. This is why some authors speak right to your heart. The similarity with your own life is uncanny because the emotions beneath are the same. Aristophanes’ theory about man’s search for his/her ‘other half’, for example, is one the best explanations I have read about Love and the concept of soulmates. And if you think I went about searching for Aristphanes’ complete works to know this, you’re mistaken – I have Paulo Coelho (in his ‘Eleven Minutes’) and Haruki Murakami (in his ‘Kafka on the shore’) to thank for this piece! Which brings me back to intellectual stimulation.
To quote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, “Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, ‘Lighthouses’ as the poet said ‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind; books are humanity in print.”
Humanity in print. That’s the beauty of words, of books.
To bask in this beauty is beyond all definitions of pleasure. And that is why I read.
Now, if you ask me one more time on why I read, I’ll have to run you through this post all over again. So, watch it!