One of the Bible verses that particularly struck me at a young age goes: “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” Ecclesiastes 12:12. This is particularly poignant for me as I have been an avid book reader on all sorts of subjects, “sacred and secular”, from a very young age, right up to the present day. One of my early skirmishes into the blogosphere was to write about my ten favourite books and I had this in mind to share when a monthly “Friends on Friday” group I sometimes attend recently invited members to talk about a book that had inspired them.
In my dotage, I continue to maintain a love affair with books, although concentration levels are less and I tend to dabble and delve into manifold stuff a lot more than I used to rather than focus on a specific work cover to cover. I cannot resist devouring some or other book (several at the same time), on a whole range of subjects and viewpoints. My house is full of them and, if I were to be indulged, I would love to build a library to house the books I have and the books I would like to have. But life is too short and there is a balance to be struck between being a good person and saving the world and reading about something that is edifying in some way, providing an important insight hitherto unrealized or just telling us something worth knowing, to which, to echo the Preacher, “there is no end”. But I should add the latter more subliminal activity helps the former more down to earth one. I should also add the caveat that there is an increasing amount of reading I do online as well as in periodicals.
But going back to my Friends on Friday visit, the leader of the session decided that rather than each person present talk about his or her book, that we would divide into groups and discuss in the group the books that each member had. My group comprised three old dears and me, and it was an agreeable experience. One had an old copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales, full of beautiful illustrations, which resonated with some of my childhood upbringing. Another had a biography on the World War 1 nurse heroine, Edith Cavell, who achieved so much but was shot as a spy before the war ended. The third had a book, also beautifully illustrated, that told the story of Mary Jones and her Bible and was a nineteenth century work that had been a prize presented to one of her ancestors. By the time we got through all this, we had run out of time and I didn’t even get to share my book. It was a bizarre and provocative choice that might not have resonated with my fellow group members so it may have been just as well. My book was “General and Inorganic Chemistry for University students”, which I read in part as a 15 year old and was part of my fascination with the notion that everything in the universe was made up of one or more (then it was 103) elements and was something I often referred to. I couldn’t help feeling after attending this session that there are many more books I would like to read. For example, our leader mentioned how in 1899 Joshua Slocombe published his account of the epic voyage in “Sailing Alone Around the World”, and upon reading some excepts I saw yet another book to be added to my “to read” list!
I wanted to use this opportunity to review two of my latest reads, but since I have yet to complete them this will have to wait until a sequel to this post, but completing these and others on the go will be among my next tasks after posting here. I am grateful that I still have my faculties and the time and opportunity to read all sorts of informative, inspirational and interesting matter. Some of that reading should be by those who present alternative perspectives and take one out of one’s comfort zone. I think one of the upshots of doing this is I have more to bring to the party, am a more interesting person and can impart wisdom and knowledge that would not otherwise be the case. It is regrettable, I feel, that people do not read anywhere near enough and are satisfied with sound bites and being drip fed skewed stuff from those with prejudice and an agenda. A few years back, I recall listening to a self taught black African pastor talking about the virtues of reading. He concluded readers make leaders and in this day we are now living in there is a dearth of leaders who can help show the way for the next generation.