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Eight important reasons to read more books

Note to readers: Beginning next Saturday, May 15, Vince Giordano’s Book Report column will move to Page E2 in our Saturday Living section.

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When people ask “How can I read more? How can I read more books this year? What’s the secret to reading a lot?” The short answer is just do it — nobody asks, “How do you find the time to eat?” But obviously you know that.

What it’s really about, then, is finding the motivation, finding the justification, and building a reading practice that will help you do what you already want to do. This week I give you eight reasons to read more. Next week I will share seven strategies to help you read more.

Eight Reasons to Read More

¯ Reading Is Your Moral Duty: Knowledge is power. A lack of knowledge is weakness — it engenders supplication and makes resistance harder.

¯ Reading Is the Way to Tell the Future: The best lessons about what’s coming next come not from the recent but from the distant past. The future is merely the past repeating.

¯ Reading Prevents You From Being Functionally Illiterate: It’s wonderful that you’re reading this article, but more is demanded of you. Drink deeply from history, from philosophy, from the books of journalists and the memoirs of geniuses. Study the cautionary tales and the screw ups, read about failures and successes. Read constantly.

¯ Reading Makes You an Informed Citizen: If you want to be an informed citizen, if you want to actually understand — rather than know trivia about — what’s going on in the world, then pick up a biography. Forget tweets about political witch hunts, read Stacey Schiff’s book about actual witch hunts. Read Machiavelli. Read Seneca. Read psychology. Go read the actual constitution of the country you live in. Read The Federalist Papers or Magna Carta.

¯ Reading Softens Your Solitude: “A library is a good place to soften solitude,” Susan Orlean writes in The Library Book, a beautiful book about the Los Angeles Public Library fire, “a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’t need to take a book off the shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen.”

¯ Reading Can Solve Your Problems: Your problems — our problems — are not new. They are not different. They are the same things humans have always struggled with, just dressed up in modern language and contemporary garb. They fall neatly in the same category that problems have always fallen into (what’s in our control and what isn’t), which means they present the same opportunities that every problem offers (to become better for it … or worse for it) and require the same virtues that all problems require (justice, temperance, wisdom, courage).

¯ Reading Is a Conversation With the Wisest to Ever Live: Zeno was a young man when he was given a cryptic piece of advice. “To live the best life,” the Oracle told Zeno, “you should have conversations with the dead.” What does that mean? Like with ghosts and goblins? Go spend time chatting in a cemetery? No, of course not. The Oracle was talking about reading. Because it’s through books that we really talk to people who are no longer with us. Their bodies may be rotting in the ground, or long since turned to dust, but in the pages of a book, they are alive and well.

¯ All Leaders Are Readers: Harry Truman famously said that not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers — they have to be. And they certainly aren’t reading to impress people or for the mental gymnastics. It’s to get better! It’s to find things they can use. Not at the dinner table or on Twitter, but in their real lives. The same must be true to us. We have to learn how to read to be better leaders, better people, better citizens. We must learn how to read for our own benefit — and so that we might have aid to offer to a friend in pain, or a soul in crisis. Only knowledge that does us good is worth knowing. Everything else is trivia.

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Vince Giordano has been the director of the Juniata County Library since 2015. Donate to the library today! It takes less than a minute. Visit our website or write to us.

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