home‎ > ‎

On Books

Christopher Reynolds, American Journalist (....)

In my family, we've never recognised a distinction between happiness and the handling of books.

Books in libraries, books in shops. Books that take you places, and books you can steal from-like Norman Maclean's memoir, A River Runs Through It, whose opening sentence (about religion and flyfishing) has been ransacked for the benefit of that first paragraph.

My father, a journalist and professor, haunted bookstores, collected first editions and briefly ran his own tiny bookshop. For his 80th birthday, we made an after-hours appointment with one of his favorite booksellers-John Cole's Book Shop in La Jolla, California-and cut loose on a family book-buying spree, chatting up the Coles between assaults on the shelves.

Christopher Reynolds, "NYPL Gives Up Some Of Its Secrets", An Article Published In Gulf Times-Weekend, Doha, Qatar, 28 October 2011


Ian Russel McEwan, British Novelist & Screenwriter (1948-....)

As for the reviews, he won't read them. Does he think, as so many people claim, that we are witnessing the end of publishing and, with it, perhaps, the slow death of the novel itself? "We have a hunger for talking and thinking about others and I don't think any other form can deliver that insiderish feeling."
Screen or paper, it doesn't matter. On the other hand, he's just moved house yes, Henry's place has been sold, replaced with a flat in Bloomsbury and a house in Gloucestershire and he has spent several days pulling books from boxes.
"You put them on the shelf and it's complete narrative of your existence," he says.
"All these crappy, yellowing paperbacks I bought when I was 17. I'll never read them again, but I could never throw them away, either."

He hugs himself, trying his best mostly for my benefit to look neurotic. "I want them around me and that's not something you can do electronically."

From the article by Rachel Cooke, "I Had The Time Of My Life", Gulf Times-Time Out, August 22, 2012


Charles M. Blow, American Journalist, (1970-....)

Reading Books Is Fundamental

The first thing I can remember buying for myself, aside from candy, of course, was not a toy. It was a book.

It was a religious picture book about Job from the Bible, bought at Kmart.

It was on one of the rare occasions when my mother had enough money to give my brothers and me each a few dollars so that we could buy whatever we wanted.

We all made a beeline for the toy aisle, but that path led through the section of greeting cards and books. As I raced past the children’s books, they stopped me. Books to me were things most special. Magical. Ideas eternalized.

Books were the things my brothers brought home from school before I was old enough to attend, the things that engrossed them late into the night as they did their homework. They were the things my mother brought home from her evening classes, which she attended after work, to earn her degree and teaching certificate.

Books, to me, were powerful and transformational.

So there, in the greeting card section of the store, I flipped through children’s books until I found the one that I wanted, the one about Job. I thought the book fascinating in part because it was a tale of hardship, to which I could closely relate, and in part because it contained the first drawing I’d even seen of God, who in those pages was a white man with a white beard and a long robe that looked like one of my mother’s nightgowns.

I picked up the book, held it close to my chest and walked proudly to the checkout. I never made it to the toy aisle.

That was the beginning of a lifelong journey in which books would shape and change me, making me who I was to become.

We couldn’t afford many books. We had a small collection. They were kept on a homemade, rough-hewn bookcase about three feet tall with three shelves. One shelf held the encyclopedia, a gift from our uncle, books that provided my brothers and me a chance to see the world without leaving home.

The other shelves held a hodgepodge of books, most of which were giveaways my mother picked when school librarians thinned their collections at the end of the year. I read what we had and cherished the days that our class at school was allowed to go to the library — a space I approached the way most people approach religious buildings — and the days when the bookmobile came to our school from the regional library.

It is no exaggeration to say that those books saved me: from a life of poverty, stress, depression and isolation.

James Baldwin, one of the authors who most spoke to my spirit, once put it this way:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

That is the inimitable power of literature, to give context and meaning to the trials and triumphs of living. That is why it was particularly distressing that The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann pointed out Tuesday that:

“The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.”

The details of the Pew report are quite interesting and somewhat counterintuitive. Among American adults, women were more likely to have read at least one book in the last 12 months than men. Blacks were more likely to have read a book than whites or Hispanics. People aged 18-29 were more likely to have read a book than those in any other age group. And there was little difference in readership among urban, suburban and rural population.

I understand that we are now inundated with information, and people’s reading habits have become fragmented to some degree by bite-size nuggets of text messages and social media, and that takes up much of the time that could otherwise be devoted to long-form reading. I get it. And I don’t take a troglodytic view of social media. I participate and enjoy it.

Write A Comment But reading texts is not the same as reading a text.

There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another person’s mind, because in so doing we find ourselves.

Take it from me, the little boy walking to the Kmart checkout with the picture book pressed to his chest.

An op-ed column published by The York Times, January 22, 2014


Nelson R. Mandela, South African Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary, Activist, Politician, Lawyer, Philanthropist, first democratically elected President of South Africa (1918-2013)

When I was seven, my father decided to give me something he had never enjoyed-an education. Ever since then, I have been able to appreciate the value of reading and lifelong learning.

Nelson Mandela, "Long Walk To Freedom", Abridged Edition, Abridged by Coco Cachalia & Marc Stuttner, Little Brown & Nolwazi, London, 1996, Back Cover


Mark Zuckerberg (American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. 1984-...) 

Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today, I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.

Cited in "The Zuckerberg Bump", The New Yorker, January 19, 2015


Arnold Weinstein (American scholar, writer. 1940-...) 

We enter the bookstore, see the many volumes arrayed there, and think: so much to read, so little time. But books do not take time; they give time, they expand our resources of both heart and mind. It may sound paradoxical, but they are, in the last analysis, scientific, for they trace the far-flung route by which we come to understand our world and ourselves. They take our measure. And we are never through discovering who we are.

Arnold Weinstein, "Don't Turn Away From the Art of Life", The New York Times, February 23, 2016

Back To Home Page