“Ask for books.” Maybe not the most exciting advice to give a bunch of college students who were drowning in a sea of reading in the middle of the semester, but that’s what my professor commanded in class one afternoon. He continued, “For every Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, or whatever…I ask for books.” I remember thinking that seemed pretty boring and lame. “Ask for books for Christmas?! Yeah, right!” was my first thought, followed by, “he must be joking.” But he wasn’t, and I knew it. Why? Because we knew he wasn’t talking about text books for class. He was talking about the books that would further our education and growth beyond the walls of the class — the books that would shape our lives and learning for the years beyond college. And it wasn’t until I was ripping the snowflake patterned paper from my Christmas presents this year that I realized how important that advice was, and how in many ways I’ve wasted valuable time and resources.
For Christmas this year I got books. My family usually asks me for my “Christmas list” so they can go out and purchase the things that I really want — at least what I think I want, and even though I provided a small list of things it wasn’t like past years. For the past few years I’ve asked for electronics, gadgets, and games, but this year I referred them to my Amazon.com Wish List which is appropriately titled “Books, Among Other Things”. That wish list has become a collection of books (among other things) that I would one day desire to own and obviously read. Anytime my pastor or a speaker I hear mentions a book he’s read, I add it to my list. Any time my wife says she “heard about this book,” we add it to the list. Any time I read about a book or a friend mentions a book, I usually add it to the list. Sometimes I just purchase the book right on the spot because I don’t want to forget it. This practice, combined with generous friends and family, has allowed my wife and me to receive at least a dozen or more books in the past year alone. These are the books that are continuing to teach, grow, and shape us by great thinkers and minds that we would otherwise be unable to communicate with.
Books are tools in an ever growing toolbox of literary helps and guides for the growth of our hearts and minds in a world that would just rather sit back and lazily learn about the world passively on a television screen. It’s because reading is hard — it’s not an easy task. It takes patience and practice, and in world that wants everything NOW, it just doesn’t have the right marketing “buy in.” When was the last time you saw a commercial about a book? Probably not that recently unless you were watching the “Oprah book club channel” (doesn’t exist), and even then I wouldn’t recommend them. That same professor who advised us to build our personal libraries would often boldly exclaim that “the world belongs to those who read!” It’s 100% true — no doubt about it. The world will never belong to Suresh Joachim and Claudia Wavra who “achieved” a Guinness World Record for the most time watching movies, unless of course they can learn to spend their time a little more wisely — like reading maybe? Books will take you beyond the limits of a ninety minute film and give you a breadth of information to which you can actually use your mind to work through. If it’s a good book, it will take you to places you’ve never been, meet people you’ve never met, and introduce to a world that is definitely bigger than the planet that your probably living on now if you aren’t making a regular practice of reading.
Don’t sell yourself too short because life is already short enough. Find something your interested in and read about it. Set a goal or two, make a schedule, and be a little disciplined in your reading in 2010. A great way to start and finish books is to simply read twenty minutes a day. In the grand scheme of the day that’s a very small percentage of time. I’ve read enough to know that I need to be doing the same thing, and the more I read the more I realize that I don’t read enough. Had I actually taken to heart what my college professor was urging us to do that day, I probably could have read a hundred more books between then and now. I could have learned any number of a million subjects, but I have only just begun to apply this simple advice. But you gotta start somewhere, so why not start today? As usual, I’m writing this for myself than anyone else, so if you need someone to join you at the library (yes, they still exist) then I’ll be ready with my library card and a good book in hand.
P.S. I’ve mentioned this topic before, so if you’re looking for “further reading” (hint, hint) then my post titled “The Way I See It #111” might interest you.