Archive for March 24th, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #47- Books

For the younger generations, let me explain that a “book” is a bound set of paper pages with writing or printed text and/or illustrations or photos.  That’s a far cry from the first known attempts by people to transcribe symbols onto stone tablets, which began in about 3500 BC.  A millennium later, the first known papyrus scrolls with written words were created in Egypt, with reeds and bird feathers as the probable scribing tools.  A more formal writing system emerged in Europe starting in about 600 BC and the current standardized writing system slowly developed in the centuries that followed. 

Paper was invented in China at the turn of the 1st century AD and illustrations were added to the text starting about 400 AD.  The very first printed book appeared in China in 868 AD and movable type was invented 200 years later, also in China.  Movable type was first used in Europe to produce the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 and the very first book was published in America in 1639.  The rest, as they say, is history. Ebooks are simply electronic versions of the same instruments but require a device with which to read them.

Books (and ebooks) can be divided into types, or genres, and all of them can be classified as fiction or non-fiction.  Fiction, which consists of stories that are made-up or greatly embellished, includes many you have heard of, such as drama, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and others.  Non-fiction, or factual books, may be science, philosophy, humor, history, self-help, travel, true crime or other genres.  To further complicate matters, recent trends include combining two or more genres to make new categories.

Whether you love epic adventures or are looking for some help in the kitchen, books can add a whole new dimension of pleasure to your life.  They can provide mental stimulation, which can slow, or possibly even prevent, the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Losing yourself in a great story can reduce stress in your daily life.  You can expand your knowledge by reading, as well as expand your vocabulary, helping you become better at making conversation and becoming more articulate.  Both of these benefits can increase your self-esteem and improve your impact at work.  Reading can also increase your empathy and improve your conversation, besides giving you some great entertainment.

Most successful authors were avid readers long before they began writing in earnest.  As a teen, I loved science fiction and police dramas, so Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and I, Robot series, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and The Dosadi Experiment, and Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field and The New Centurions, were all among my favorites, and I re-read each of them several times.  As an adult, my attention turned more to sports fiction and non-fiction, as well as science and industry features.  I am extremely pleased to have written my own retired detective series and, who knows?, maybe a sci-fi series will be next.

The advantage of paper books over their electronic cousins should be obvious — no device or electricity is necessary, at least in the daytime, to enjoy them.  You can grab a thick Shakespeare play, a thin Harlequin romance paperback or one of the seemingly endless personal help guides, then head to the beach, the mountains, a back yard lounge chair or in front of a flickering campfire and lose yourself in ways that watching television or movies can’t match.  Reading forces you to imagine the scene, the setting, the characters, the voices, while letting you think about what the plot is doing, guessing what’s next or whodunit.  I never finished a book quickly — I kept re-reading pages or passages to get as full a comprehension as I could manage as I moved through it.  But, then again, that let me enjoy them even longer.


I’ll end this subject with a quote from the famous scientist and naturalist, Jane Goodall, who wrote, “When I was 10 years old, I loved – I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan.

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