The principal speaker at our son’s graduation yesterday was Vermont novelist Chris Bohjalian. He was excellent. He got a deserved standing ovation. Aside from advising the graduates to “stay here!” (that was a joke, but not a completely bad piece of advice), he argued for, among other things, the importance of reading.
As a reader, I didn’t disagree with what he said. Not everyone, however, is of the same opinion.
It’s always bothered me that I’d often finish a book and shortly thereafter not remember much about it. So when I retired a few years ago, I started writing a brief response to every book I finished on a blog I called Retirement Reading. Now I had a semi-permanent record of the books I was reading.
Keeping a record of what I’d read reminded me of a summer long ago when I kept a list of books I’d finished in order to win a prize or something. (Several of the terrific Doctor Doolittle and Wizard of Oz books appeared on my list that summer.)
Last week, I decided to move the contents of Retirement Reading over here to WordPress (goodbye, Google). Trying to think of a good title (since it’s never been a blog about Medicare or where to retire), I looked through some quotations regarding books and reading. Some famous authors had some surprising things to say on the topic:
“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” — Albert Einstein
“Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
“Learn as much by writing as by reading.” — Lord Acton
“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.” — Sir Arthur Helps (who? — 19th century author, politician, etc.)
They weren’t all negative, of course:
“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sir Arthur won: