Lots of us like to piggy-back on Valentine’s Day and use its theme of ‘love’ for many different causes. For quite a few years now, the American Library Association has used the week of Valentine’s Day for ‘I Love to Read Week.’ It is a cause I can support with my whole heart. The value of reading and books is priceless when it comes to creating a basic foundation for life. In past generations reading and books were the privilege of the elite, but with the advent of public libraries, supported at public expense, we all have an investment in what reading does for the betterment of society.
Whether you use your Kindle or Nook or some other technological device, we all love a good story -- mystery, science-fiction, romance. And in like manner we are curious and want books on science and history, biographies. Books on government teach us how our rights developed from ancient Greece and Rome and how we still struggle for basic liberties throughout the world. Books by travelers and journalists are especially important in understanding our fast changing world. Novels, poetry, biographies and histories written by people of other races and cultures open our minds to better understanding them and ourselves and how we are all living together on one planet. Our natural world is more open to us -- the oceans, the stars, the earth itself, because scientists and authors give us the gift of these worlds when they write about them. Moral and ethical values come to us through books and for those deep readers who tackle philosophy, theology, psychology and other such disciplines make us better people.
I have friends who span the spectrum of books and reading. Some are bibliophiles or lovers of the book itself. They love old end papers and interesting bindings. I love to read and except in rare instances do not find a great holding power in the book itself, only its contents. As my eyes get older and less able to stay focused on the printed page I am reminded of my Dad, also a great lover of reading, who eventually had to pass on to books on tape which he listened to on a regular basis as long as he was living. The thirst for learning, for information is never ending.
Libraries, while downplayed by some, are still as one author has said, “the true university of the people.” The gift of freedom of information is one of the gifts of the library movement to the world. Today computers are provided in most libraries so those who cannot afford access to the Internet are not at a loss with the rest of society in being able to get what they need for their lives. Librarians have always been information specialists, but now also perform the role of wizards of technology. The support of libraries by communities large and small is the sign of a progressive community and often a check factor when people are choosing places to go and live.
Reading is the path to learning and it is important we encourage children to read and to listen to them read aloud. Anytime we can curl up with a child in our laps and a book in our hands to share is sheer heaven! I encourage you to find that special book you read years ago that changed the direction of your life; or the one that brought you pure pleasure; or the one that taught you about another time and another world. Treat yourself with a book and chocolate this week!
Does anyone out there have a good book to recommend? I can’t find anything that really holds my attention and I’m getting a little frantic as most readers understand. I picked up a couple of Nora Roberts’ discount books the other day and although I read through them, rapidly, ugh! They were formula writing; they were predictable; they were trite. Now I like a Mary Higgins Clark book as well as the next person but only when I am in the mood for something that has no enduring value -- just chocolates and a late night.
I’ve recently tried some Scandinavian mystery writers again. Henning Mankill and his Wallender series were good, but sooo dark. To read the Northern European mystery writers one would think the whole population is on the verge of mass suicide! However, a cousin in Sweden recommended Jussi Adler-Olson so I read the first three of his Department Q series and they weren’t too bad, but then I picked up a book CD of his entitled The Alphabet House and I am fast forwarding through that. Jo Nesbro, a Norwegian mystery writer has one with a wretched title, Cockroaches. It is about a Nowegian ambassador murdered in a brothel in Bangkok. A detective is hauled out and sent there to solve the case. It is all very hush-hush as there are a lot of political ramifications which is where the symbolism of the cockroaches comes from, I assume. When I am finished I am sending them to my brother who is a much more discriminating reader than I am and see what he thinks.
Next in line is David Silva’s The Black Widow. Sometime back Silva created a character Gabriel Allon. It must have taken a lot of time as Allon is very complex. As you read through the books you learn he is with Mossad in Israel, becoming involved after the Munich Olympics' massacre of Jewish athletes in 1972. His son was killed in a car bombing in Vienna after which his wife was never the same. Allon is an accomplished art restorer who tries time after time to separate from Mossad and live his solitary life. At last in Venice he meets the woman who becomes his second wife and who is also with Mossad. There are a variety of secondary characters who re-appear in Silva’s books, each one a real stand-alone, in their own right. Allon is positioned at this time to become the head of Mossad, but who knows, something always happens to skew a logical progression to his finding some peace and stability for himself and his family. I am hopeful for this new one.
The problem is, of course, that personal reading tastes don’t always run in the same direction. The author you enjoy may not touch me at all. I do like good biographies -- I remember reading Last train to Memphis, on Elvis Presley’s early years and it was fascinating. Right now I have The Fatal Shore on my end table. It is about the settlement of Australia by convicts from Britain and how that influenced the history of the nation. It is very revealing and well-written but only a few pages at a time, thank you.
Oh, well. There is joy in the search as well as the finding and I will find something, hopefully soon.