Posts Tagged “Reading”

I read a lot when I was younger. I know people who still read religiously, and they, of course, have read more than me. Reading really changed my life though. It is one of the few things I can honestly say did. Most of my life would’ve happened anyway. I’m wired a certain way. But the way I see the world was changed by books. I think about them all the time. They are my story when my life has no parallel.

I think of Ivan’s “Everything is lawful” speech in the Brother’s Karamazov, the morality play in Crime and Punishment. I think of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra…..with the concept of Will to Power, and the famous “God is Dead” passage. I remember Ayn Rand and the harsh but inspiring concepts of Objectivism. I remember the book of Luke in the Bible and the soaring visions of the Sermon on the Mount. I remember Herman Hesse….I read alot of his books: Narcissus and Goldmund, The Glass Bead Game, Siddhartha….the duality of human nature. There were those inspiring little books like Johnathan Livingston Seagull, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. Steinback…the tragedy of the Grapes of Wrath, and the struggle of good, evil, and an individiual’s destiny in East of Eden. I read Dickens, Twain, lots more Dostoevsky. The tragedy and passion in Anna Karenina, the scope of War and Peace. Two that hit really close to home for me were The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad…everyone has their demons. Candide by Voltaire is one of the finest books ever written…period…and its also really funny, which is something I can’t say about many other great books. Except for Catch-22 by Joseph Heller…shit. That was funny and true, and tragic all at the same time. Vengeance and Hate…they never look as beautiful as in The Count of Monte Cristo. I read Machiavelli, Plato, Shakespeare…ok. That’s enough I suppose. My memory has run out…even if the effect of those books on me has not….doesn’t matter that I can’t remember them.

The point is that with a set of maybe less than 50 books, most available for under $10 apiece as Barnes and Noble Classics, I literally changed my life. I used to read them, and think I’d re-invented the world…only to read another book and find someone else had already thought it before. I took small solace in the fact that I would come up with the ideas and then read them a year later in some other book. I searched for some idea that was mine and mine alone….but I think not. I just haven’t read the right book yet. Its all out there.

Anyway, these books shape my thoughts…they allow me to live a life that I will never live. They allow me to experience tragedy, loss, crime, hate, vengeance, love, evil, and every other range of emotion…without ever having to do it myself. It enriches my life.

A note too about writing:

With a decade of writing under my belt I start to shape my world by my own previous comments. In this case I have said, “NASA can send a man to the moon….only a book can send a plumber.” I actually didn’t say that…but I did say something similar.

Writing is useful in framing your world, just as reading is useful in shaping worlds that you haven’t visited yet, but soon might.

This is a true story: Someone once asked me how to make the world a better place. My reply: Read a book.


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