In our house, we have children who are bookworms and others who would just as soon gnaw off a foot rather than curl up with a good read. This latter group puzzles both me and my husband because we are both voracious readers. How can anyone come out of my womb and hate books?
Erasmus once said, “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” It seems that Erasmus and I are kindred spirits, embracing the same wholesome priorities.
Books are my weakness. I will spend money on books before I do on clothing, curtains, or new furniture. When I’m forced to shell out money for some needed item, I look forlornly on as the money leaves my hands and wonder how many books could have been purchased with those greenbacks.
If you walk into my home, you will see books everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Now that I’ve completely run out of shelf space, I’ve resorted to stacking them from the floor to the ceiling.
I have boxes of them in the garage because I am refusing to part with them. I even have a coffee mug that has books painted all over it; it’s the only mug that I use. That mug inspires me. It speaks to me.
Although I love reading both non-fiction and fiction, if pressed to admit which I liked better, I would have to say fiction. Reading fiction has tremendous benefits, which I’ve desperately tried to convey to those among my household who will not open up a book unless it’s absolutely necessary.
When I suggest that they read a book in order to eradicate their boredom, they look at me as if stars and pinwheels were coming out of my ears.
Fill up on Fiction
Reading fiction cultivates the imagination; not only this, but it inspires creativity as well. I cannot tell you how many different ideas for various ministries, family outings, gifts, and fundraising ventures came to me as a result of something that I read in a fiction book.
Reading fiction eradicates boredom and drives away loneliness. It takes you out of your world and brings you into another. It brings all sorts of colorful people and stimulating situations into your life that otherwise would not be there.
The word vicarious means to share in or experience by imagined participation another’s experience. Reading fiction is the great escape from the dullness and boredom of routine! When you open up a great story, you find yourself living vicariously among the characters in that story.
You are there with them in that room, that city, that time. Because the characters have become such a part of your life, you find yourself exulting in their joys and commiserating with their sorrows.
All those people who are in that story are in your life. You belong to each other. Their world has now become yours, if only for a few hours each day.
Even if you have few opportunities to leave your house because of the season where you may be in your life, books can still take you to other worlds. They can introduce you to interesting people – people who inspire you and bring out the best in you.
People who make you feel good about yourself and life. It doesn’t matter if the people or situations aren’t real; it’s a psychological fact that the mind doesn’t know the difference between that which is real and that which is imagined. This is why powerful emotions can be evoked simply by reading words in a story.
The mind responds!
Enter the Wardrobe
To give you an example, several years ago, I decided to read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The main character in this particular book is a woman named Fanny Price.
Anyone who knows anything about this particular novel, which came out in 1814, knows that when it comes to Fanny Price, there are two separate camps: those who like and admire her and those who find her too annoying to live.
As I started to read the book, I found myself gravitating toward the latter camp. Try as I did, I simply could not get myself to like Fanny. Because the characters in the story were so real to me, especially the annoying Fanny, I found myself walking around in a frustrated, agitated stew.
We have a gadget in our home that takes one’s blood pressure, and I found that during the reading of Mansfield Park, my blood pressure, which is normally on the low end, was now high!
I literally had to stop reading Mansfield Park simply because of the adverse effect Fanny was having on me. I use this as an example to show just how powerful fiction can be. Again, it is a psychological fact that the mind does not know the difference between that which is real or imagined.
Fanny Price became such a part of my world that her presence was affecting my blood pressure. As soon as I sent Fanny packing, my blood pressure returned to normal.
Because of this, it’s important that when we choose literature, we make selections that are going to have a positive influence on us, not a negative one. If I sat around and read horror stories all day long, I’d be unfit for human companionship. Books affect us, so we need to be careful when it comes to what types of books we expose ourselves to.
Fanny Price aside, there are stories – many wonderful stories – that evoke wonderful feelings within us because of the power of words to transport us from one world to another.
Although I am a writer, I do not possess the talent for writing stories. I am an essayist, not a storyteller. Whenever I curl up with a good story, I am amazed at the gift these writers have to create a world and fill it with people and situations.
I’m presently reading The Brothers Ashkenazi by I.J. Singer. This book was written in 1936 in Yiddish, but was translated into the English language. Once this translation took place, the book went to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and lingered there together with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind for many months. I simply cannot put this book down.
Each time I open up the pages of this book, I am transported out of the little desert New Mexico town in which I live and planted among the Jewish community who lived in the Polish city of Lodz before World War I. It isn’t 2014; it’s 1905, and I’m there with them, in the factories, the study houses, the living rooms, and the prisons. For a few hours each day, their world is mine, and it is a world that leaves me mesmerized.
For a few hours each day, the most colorful, interesting, and mentally stimulating people surround me – people who I carry in my heart long after the book is closed for the day. People who cause me to laugh uncontrollably in the middle of the night when I lay in my bed thinking of something they did or said.
Bored? How can I be, with all that is taking place in Lodz? Lonely? Impossible! Not with such lively characters who have graciously allowed me to be a part of their world, even if only for a few hours each day.
Again, I must reiterate that it is a psychological fact that the mind does not know the difference between that which is real and that which is imagined. Bringing people into your life through books has the same psychological effect as if those people had come to your house for tea.
It doesn’t matter if they are not there with you physically; if they are there only in your mind, that’s all the mind needs to know. When the mind is content, the rest of the body will be as well.
Bilocate with Books. ;)
When you are raising a family, usually there is very little time or money for vacations, outings, and even get-togethers with friends. As much as we’d all like to pencil in time for get-togethers with friends, for most of us those times are few and far between because of the season of our lives and the heavy workload and responsibilities that we bear.
In the tiny desert town in which I live, there really isn’t much to amuse, entertain, or keep one occupied. There really isn’t anywhere to go. My family lives on the east coast, 2,000 miles away, so there isn’t even any family to visit.
But when I open up a book, such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I am surrounded by family once more, and my loneliness is driven away.
In the rural area in which I live, there isn’t much to stimulate one intellectually. But when I open up a book, and that book takes me to a teahouse and seats me with a group of artisans, writers, and intellectuals in a particular story, I am seated at the table with them, drinking tea, listening in on their conversations, and my thirst for people who are interesting, inspiring, and mentally stimulating is quenched once more.
Ah, the power of books! The inspiration they bring! The places they take you! The ideas they instill, the hopes they encourage, the convictions they confirm, and the incredible people you meet!
Who can be bored, uninspired, unoccupied, or lonely in the presence of a book?
Looking for interesting places to go, interesting people to see, and lots of interesting things to do? I encourage you, dear reader, to look no further than the pages of an opened book. You will not be disappointed, for it is there where you will find all that you need… and more!
So how does a book make you feel? :)