The Beauty of Books
July 21, 2015 1 Comment
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” –Charles William Eliot
One of my guilty pleasures is visiting used bookstores. Given the time, I can, and often do, spend hours browsing the shelves, flipping through pages, and enjoying the unique smell of the aging paper. It’s incredible to look at the volume of volumes knowing that each binding quite literally contains its own unique story. From the folio edition of a classic novel to the in-depth theology book to the paperback version of a business bestseller, each text represents hours of thought and work to communicate an idea.
Why do I enjoy books so much? Primarily because books are such a beautiful and powerful way to convey a message. They have the ability to inspire, educate, and entertain their readers. In the quote above, Eliot captures the role of a books well when he refers to them as the reader’s friend, counselor, and teacher. Understanding each of these characterizations helps to comprehend what makes books so beautiful and unique:
- “The quietest and most constant of friends”
There is something special about picking up a book, finding a comfortable spot, and getting lost in it for hours. Like quality time spent with a friend, reading is truly invigorating. In addition, unlike other forms of media, books have a certain permanence and intimacy to them. You can touch and smell them and write in them. A well-written work communicates timeless truths in a way that captivates and challenges us. Much like interpersonal relationships, there is a reason that some stories stand the test of time while others slowly fade. As you read more and more, some books rise to the top and become dear favorites that shape and mold you, inviting you to read them again and again.
- “The most accessible and wisest of counselors”
Books give you instant access to some of history’s brightest minds. You don’t need to setup an appointment, travel long distances, or find a way to resurrect a dead guy. All you have to do is buy their book, or borrow it from a library, and you can benefit from their insights. Think about how amazing that is: you can learn from world-renowned scholars or walk in the shoes of influential men and women or travel to far off destinations (like the Shire), all for less than a tank of gas. Time has also done us the service of filtering books for us, ensuring that the very best of each age are preserved.
- “The most patient of teachers”
Unlike most classroom settings, books allow their readers to learn and explore at their own pace: paragraphs can be read multiple times, ideas can be pondered for hours, words can be highlighted, and thoughts can be scribbled in the margins. With the breadth of books available on any given topic, you can being in the shallow end and gradually inch towards the deep end. What you can learn and enjoy is only limited by the time you dedicate to reading. Once a publication is finished, it joins others on the bookshelf serving both as a visual reminder of the lessons learned and an invitation to revisit the content again at any time.
Books truly are beautiful treasures. They have a special ability to capture an individual’s attention while inviting them to wrestle with ideas, imagine new places, and enrich their lives. A person’s bookshelf stands as a testament to their journey: telling their story with stories.
Here’s my challenge to you: make reading a regular discipline in your life. Set aside a few minutes each day (or at least each week) just for reading. Start a stack of books that you want to enjoy and begin working through them. Mix it up with pieces on a variety of topics and of varying lengths. Find a reading spot (or spots) where you can process what you’re reading. The more you read, the more you will come to view books, as Eliot did, as your friends, counselors, and teachers.
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” –Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice
Learn It. Love It. Live It.