More specifically, why read books? Why do I even ask this? If you follow this blog, you’re likely an avid reader, of darn near everything. I still want to offer some reasons. For information, of course. For entertainment, naturally. But also:
For history. Authors such as Alison Weir, Bernard Cornwell and Tracy Chevalier are committed to accuracy in their historical novels. One favorite of mine is The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks.
For therapy. A friend of mine was anxiously awaiting the results of a biopsy. She discovered Whitethorn Woods, by Maeve Binchy. This tale of basically decent people, being there for each other and facing life’s difficulties, gave her hope and emotional soothing during the dark hours of night. (The biopsy showed only benignity.)
For healing. This is especially true of memoir, especially if you are recovering from similar experiences to what the writer has endured and survived. But when my wonderful husband died, I found great comfort in Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. While not a memoir, it related the stories of many other people facing end of life issues. It was comforting to me to feel that connection to every other human being, as we all do, or will, face this inevitable end.
For company: There’s that saying, “Book lovers never go to bed alone.” I can honestly say, I never have.
I had some minor eye surgery a few weeks ago. Pre-op and post-op instructions were clear, manageable and complete. No driving, bending. lifting anything over 20 pounds, all the usual stuff. But there was one HUUUGE exception. They didn’t tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to read for 24 hours. Or work on the computer. They told me this only AFTERWARDS. Why on earth would they not mention something so crucial? At least crucial to me. They probably had no idea they were dealing with someone who has a reading addiction. There was nothing like that on the pre-op questionnaire. Some of my friends didn’t get why I was so devastated. I could still watch TV, right? And it’s only for 24 hours. Easy for them to say. Look, if I’m alone and unoccupied, it’s hard for me to go 24 minutes without access to something to read. I’m the kind of person who ALWAYS has something to read. You know, just in case. Just in case the doctor is running late. Just in case traffic is light and I get where I’m going way early. Just in case I have, for whatever reason, a few minutes to kill. If I don’t need it, so what? Carrying a small book, magazine, or an e-book is a minor extra in my tote bag. If I forget to bring something, I start to fret. I read while waiting for the previews to start at the movies. I read during commercial breaks on TV. (Okay, maybe I’m a little cuckoo.)
I got through it, of course. My wonderful friends called me so I could pass the time in long telephone conversations. But here’s the thing: if I had known ahead of time, I could have prepared. With an audio book or podcast ready to go at the push of a button, or rather a tap on the screen. Well, I won’t be caught short again. And I now have a set of quality earbuds to prove it.
This post is not about writing, reading or publishing. At least not directly. But as a writer, I’m constantly looking for ways to be more efficient, especially with my keyboard and other electronics. And so I’m recommending the book Pogue’s Basics, by David Pogue. It’s full of keyboard shortcuts, as well as sections on web searching, text messaging, enhancing privacy and security, preserving and recovering files and other ways to make the best use of our phones and computers.
Sure, a lot of this I already knew. And maybe you’re more computer savvy that I am. But even the few new ideas I’ve learned are well worth the price of the book.
The edition I have is a few years old (and so far, I haven’t seen any plans for an updated edition), so I had to translate some of the commands to newer versions of web browsers or applications. But that was easy and many of the tips are still perfectly current. Too many of these “helpful hints” books, on any subject, are full of ridiculous actions that I would never bother with, or are overwhelming. This book is clear, well-organized and above all, useful in the most immediately practical way. It’s not about becoming a computer expert. It’s more about helping the rest of us become the best end users we can be. Just my humble opinion.