How do you engage with the world? We all have our own ways. And there is the inevitable factor that some of us are extroverts while some of us are introverts.
I’ve found that reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world. For me, it’s helped me understand many of life’s questions.
That’s why I was intrigued by Will Schwalbe’s article in the Wall Street Journal. Here is part of what he shared:
We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: “What are you reading?”
It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives.
Here’s one example: I met, at a bookstore, a woman who told me that she had fallen sadly out of touch with her beloved grandson. She lived in Florida. He and his parents lived elsewhere. She would call him and ask him about school or about his day. He would respond in one-word answers: Fine. Nothing. Nope.
And then one day, she asked him what he was reading. He had just started “The Hunger Games,” a series of dystopian young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins. The grandmother decided to read the first volume so that she could talk about it with her grandson the next time they chatted on the phone. She didn’t know what to expect, but she found herself hooked from the first pages, in which Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the annual battle-to-the-death among a select group of teens.
The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.
Other than belonging to the same family, they had never had much in common. Now they did. The conduit was reading. We need to read and to be readers now more than ever.
Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.