This new year, resolve to let all the action happen inside your mind, the most sophisticated virtual screen to be devised!
This is what reading does for you:
- Finances unlimited journeys to every corner of the earth. But be more than an armchair traveler. Delve into the history of the world, and crack the code to the variety of cultures, religions, and political systems out there.
- Offers instant escape from your individual reality. Anais Nin says, “When one is truly rich, inwardly, ordinary life becomes a form of torture.” A book hands you an alternative life, easing you out of boredom and malaise.
- Provides incomparable aesthetic pleasure derived from sharply chiseled sentences, startling imagery and stunning words. Check out this image: “straight-trunked trees spread out canopies as dense and green as broccoli.” And this one: “a crisp-cut suit defined him against the landscape, the way a line of India ink edged a drawing.” Both from Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck.
- Introduces you to a debate partner with whom to explore controversial issues. Although it is silent, the conversation allows you to compare notes with a writer whose intellect you respect. A few of my debate buddies include Edward Said, Katha Pollitt, Louis Menand and Laura Kipnis.
- Connects you emotionally with writers who mirror your innermost thoughts, anxieties, desires, and goals, affording you the knowledge that you are not alone: many others out there share your passions.
- Teaches you to appreciate the elements of good writing:
(a) A riveting plot containing reversals and recognitions, as set forth in Aristotle’s Poetic’s
(b) An innovative narrative structure whose parts form an impacting whole,
(c) Fluidity and depth of thought, (d) Language that sings, runs, yells, soothes, soothes,
(e) Fictional characters — or, in the case of nonfiction, real people — whose traits, actions and thoughts open up a world of possibilities,
(f) A setting that allows you to live in it.
7. Unlocks the secrets of survival for us, fragile humans buffeted by random blows from a haphazard world.
Here are seven books I’ve read recently that do all of the above:
The New Negro: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance edited by Alain Locke
This is an incredible compilation of fiction, poetry, drama and essays by African-American writers –including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer and Countee Cullen — who lived during the exciting 1920s artistic revival called The Harlem Renaissance.
Paper Fish by Tina De Rosa
Writing in an almost mystical poetic prose, De Rosa tells the story of an Italian-American girl who struggles to survive in the slums of ethnic Chicago. The tale focuses on immigrants who grapple with harsh reality in 1950s America, but also hold on to cultural traditions.
One Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
If you want to experience an eye opener about Afghan culture, read this tale about two oppressed women who are almost murdered by their enraged husband. Hosseini offers us an unforgettable portrait of what it’s like to be female in the sad Taliban culture of ignorance.
My Thirty Years’ War by Margaret Anderson
A passionate treatise on the splendors of the artistic sensibility, this memoir recounts Anderson’s adventures as the publisher of innovative The Little Review in the early 1900s. She emerges as an ambitious, high-spirited woman and a role model for those aspiring to the literary lifestyle.
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Early twentieth century London is the setting for this portrait of the world’s scientists as they compete to develop wireless telegraphy. Larson intertwines the stories of the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and the homeopathic doctor, Hawley Harvey Crippen, charged with the North London Cellar Murder, for a compelling look at the Edwardian period.
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter chronicles the lives of army infantry soldiers as they carry out Bush’s new strategy for war in Iraq during 2007. Finkel lived with the battalion in Baghdad and not only describes the horrific details of battle, but also reveals the private drama of these heroic young men. The book will transform you forever into a pacifist.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Each Christmas this simple narrative reminds me that turning your life around is within reach. Scrooge, bitter and angry, transcends the pain of the past and transforms himself . He discovers that generosity of spirit is better than resentment.
What books have you read lately? How have they impacted you?