I believe in book learning.
As an incurable bibliophile from as far back as I can remember books have been an integral part of my life. I was probably the only second grader in my class to spend his allowance on books. Even now, when I have more responsibilities than grades and chores, I try to read Newsweek cover to cover every week and finish at least one book each month. That’s on top of the blogs and news sites that I follow religiously.
I’ve always viewed reading as a way of staying connected. Every book is a window that gives me a front row seat to peek into a world that does not overlap with my own life. In addition to broadening my horizons, reading helps me organize my experiences and thoughts. When a writer sat down to tell a story about a place, a culture, or a person, he or she is forced to bring structure and order to a seemingly haphazard collection of events. That’s why sometimes I get more insight from reading about something than experiencing it first hand.
Ten years ago I took a trip to New Mexico to visit the famous Anasazi ruins. I had long been mesmerized by accounts of grand palaces carved into the side of sandstone cliffs and large towns built of stone that seemed to rise out of nowhere in the middle of the desert. The actual experience turned out to be a little underwhelming for me. The masonry that had looked so perfectly symmetrical in pictures seemed uneven when viewed close up, and I had to crouch down in order to fit into the doorway of most buildings, even the Great Kiva in Pueblo Bonito. While the ruins in Chaco Canyon are undeniably beautiful, if I had passed by them today without having read about their history I would never have guessed that they once were a great ceremonial center over a thousand years ago.
I am fully aware that one cannot attain true wisdom by reading. Knowing that the key to career advancement lies in hard work and good networking does not guarantee professional success, no more than having the recipe for creating the perfect tapas platter means one will be feasting on it tonight. However, the tens of thousands of hours that I have spent with my eyes glued to a book or a monitor have told me this: that every place, every culture, every group, and every human being has a story to tell, and if it’s worth writing about, then it’s worth reading. This I believe.