Part of my library...messy, I know...what are you gonna do?
In my youth, I always derived a sweet, slightly pathetic satisfaction out of finishing a good book. Oh, I don't mean the Stephen King thriller of the week, or a Sydney Sheldon page turner. I'm talking about the true books - the classics, by Tolstoy, Hugo, Joyce, Faulkner, among many others.
Sweet, because I'd managed to work my way through a powerful tome and had (seemingly) assimilated its essence. Pathetic, because in reality that didn't amount to much of an accomplishment.
I read a lot in my early twenties. I felt that my function at the time was to obtain an education, and I never believed my professors were able to teach me half as much as I could learn on my own. I still think I was right.
I'd put away one or two books away weekly, which wasn't easy when you're working and going to school full time. But when you're alone in a big city there's not much else to do with your time.
There is a good deal of pleasure to be found in reading. Allowing the author's narrative to take shape in your imagination, as the characters gain depth and the plot thickens. It's easy to cry with the heroes, or smile when they're being privately clever - like you're the only one in on the joke.
But my greatest delight lie in simply having another book under my belt; having read yet another great one. It wasn't for bragging purposes. Hell, most of the people I hung out with barely even knew how to read. No, I just never wanted to feel left out, not knowing what was being talked about. Be it in casual conversation, class, watching the news, reading a book, anything. When a reference was made, I wanted to know exactly what was being said.
Pretty shallow, I suppose, but there it is. Regardless of the purpose behind it, I feel I gained great complexity, depth and wordliness through it all. The beauty of other cultures is something that can only be observed through extensive traveling or reading, and traveling is something that most of us are much too financially challenged to enjoy thoroughly. But to share in another being's insight, to view the world through another's eyes, well, the nearest we can come to doing that is by reading other people's thoughts. And don't you wish more people did that?