A better life through literature

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Books enable us to be wiser, more compassionate individuals

By David Hurtado

Reading is absurd, isn’t it? Page after page of text. Conversations played out in our minds in which we have no part of. Why do we bother?

Sometimes it’s just a way to pass the time. For others, books open portals to worlds more fantastic than our own. Humans are naturally curious creatures; we hunt for treasure, rarely satisfied, seeking answers to the big questions in life.

Unless you are exceptionally gifted in the ways of Google-fu, these answers won’t be found on the Internet; they will be tucked away within the pages of countless books.

According to Statistic Brain, 42 percent of college students will never read another book after graduating. The total number of American adults unable to read at the eighth grade level stands at 50 percent. When books are more readily available then at any other point in history, how are these statistics even possible?

I don’t know whether that stems from a lack of local libraries — which is highly unlikely — or because people don’t understand the value of reading. Maybe it’s because people can’t be bothered to occupy their spare time with something other than a brightly-lit screen; watching funny cat videos can be very addicting and time consuming.

Sarcasm aside, books are not dusty, decrepit relics from a time before computers. Libraries contain the wisdom and knowledge of generations who have come before us. Reading books that your professor assigns you is well and good, but outside reading is where the mind flourishes. No, I’m sorry, just because you read Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” one time in the third grade does not mean you’ve done outside reading.

Reading opens the world and the human experience to everyone, no matter what his or her social status. There are books on every subject written for almost every level of understanding. They offer new perspectives on life–allowing us to understand ourselves and others better through the emotions of the story.

Sure you can get a college degree and pass exams by browsing the web for almost every answer, but when it comes to the real world, that won’t work. Sitting down and reading a book builds an information database inside your head. As we learn more about the world around us, the brain adds new thoughts and ideas onto the existing framework.

Books are the fuel of the mind, that great machine which enables creation and innovation and powers the engine of the world. There are no right or wrong books you should or shouldn’t be reading. It doesn’t matter whether you read from paper or tablet. Just find something you like and let your mind explore the world within the pages.

I’m an avid bookworm; I’ve read many great books, including science fiction and autobiographies. If you’re still not convinced reading is a worthwhile investment, give one of these a shot: “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “The Great Gatsby”, “What is the What” or “The Giver.” What have you got to lose?

Remember, the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

Contact David Hurtado, features editor, at dhurtado@jccc.edu.

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